The Insurance Bureau of Canada recently released their annual fact book. This includes a cross-Canada comparison of auto insurance systems, summarized here plus our update for Alberta.
Quebec and Manitoba have government-run pure no-fault insurance regimes, with no right to sue for pain and suffering, nor for economic loss in excess of no-fault benefits.
British Columbia’s new no-fault system allows claims for pain and suffering up to $5,627 for accidents on or after April 1, 2021. Third-party liability is applicable only in certain situations. Basic insurance is provided by the government’s Insurance Commission of British Columbia, which competes with private insurers for optional and additional coverage.
Saskatchewan also has a government-run system, which like BC competes with private insurers for optional and additional coverage. Saskatchewan lets motorists choose between a no-fault option (which is selected by more than 90 per cent of drivers) or a tort option. Under both options drivers have the right to sue for economic loss. The few motorists choosing the tort option can sue for pain and suffering (subject to a $5,000 deductible), which no-fault insureds cannot do.
Ontario and Alberta are the largest provinces with private auto insurance administration, but as we reported earlier both provinces are looking at changes. Currently, injured plaintiffs can sue for pain and suffering (with some limits, depending on the injury’s severity) or for economic loss.
In March 2021, the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario (FSRA) released its report from a panel of 36 citizens who volunteered to hear from insurance company representatives, healthcare professionals, lawyers, and accident victim advocates. Several of the panel’s recommendations are of concern to personal injury lawyers:
- Creating a mechanism for escalating consumer complaints is a warning flag.
- A schedule showing maximum payable amounts needs to take contingency fees into account.
- Any changes to the Insurance Act and SABS need close monitoring by the profession.
- The mechanics of limiting or removing the tort process is still an open question.
In 2020, Alberta released a report that looked at auto insurance across Canada and in other countries. The panel of three experts recommended a no-fault auto insurance system, like that in British Columbia. The government has not gone the no-fault route, but has made changes for 2022 considered adverse to injured plaintiffs and their counsel, including:
- Broadened the definition of “minor injury”. Now, anything associated with a strain, sprain or whiplash may be considered “minor” if it does not result in serious impairment. The maximum pain and suffering claim for minor injury is just over $5000.
- If the plaintiff’s claim is more than $100,000, each party is limited to calling a maximum of three expert witnesses. Some limited exceptions require either consent from the defence counsel or court permission.
- Section B benefits are limited to $1,000 for dentists, psychologists, and occupational therapists (previously $50,000).
- Pre-Judgment Interest has been reduced from 4% to roughly 0.3% for pain and suffering. Personal injury lawyers see this as another incentive for the defence to drag out a case.
The Atlantic provinces and the Territories also have private sector auto insurance, with the right to sue for economic loss in excess of no-fault benefits. These governments also allow suing for pain and suffering, but often with conditions such as a deductible or a cap on minor injury awards.
Personal injury lawyers looking to provide MVA services in other provinces can overlook Quebec and Manitoba, need to be very selective in BC or Saskatchewan, must keep a close watch on legislative trends in Ontario and Alberta, and consider the small market sizes in the Atlantic provinces and the Territories.
If you would like to download a copy of the IBC Report, please IBC report.
NOTE: This article is based on information available in January 2022.
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