Car Insurance Isn’t Sexy
Let’s face it – car insurance is a boring subject. Unless you get injured in a car accident. Or your mom does. Or your kid. Only after that happens will you get a crash course (no pun intended) on the unique forms of compensation available to car accident victims in Ontario, including compensation from your own car insurance company.
The Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule (“SABS” – catchy, right?) sets out benefits that you can claim from your own auto insurer for things like medical and rehabilitation expenses and lost income. Your SABS claim is made to your own auto insurer even if someone else was totally at fault for your accident.
In the past, injured people have been able to “settle” their SABS claim with their insurer for a lump sum of money intended to fund future treatments or replace future lost income. The injured person can then pursue the treatment that they want without asking their car insurance company for approval first. That option of a lump sum settlement may be coming to an end, though, thanks to the provincial government.
The Ontario legislature is apparently concerned that when injured people settle their SABS claims, they end up using some of their settlement money to pay the personal injury lawyer that assisted them with negotiating the settlement. As a result, the legislature is considering banning settlements altogether! Instead, the injured person would have an open claim and their access to treatment would be dependent on approval from their car insurance company. Guess what? Insurers don’t always approve treatment! When that happens, the injured person’s only recourse is a long and tedious appeal process that guarantees nothing other than the fact that they’re not going to get timely treatment.
If I were injured in a car accident, I would much rather have my treatment money in my own hands than in the hands of my car insurance company. And yes, I’d be willing to pay someone a small amount of that settlement money to ensure that my rights were protected and that I achieved an optimal settlement. That would be a wise investment.
In addition to limiting access to care, the proposed ban on lump sum settlements will limit access to justice. What if you’re injured and unable to work and earn a living? How are you going to pay an injury lawyer to fight for your benefits if you can’t pay them out of a lump sum settlement? Who is going to take on your insurance company when they say “no, you don’t need physiotherapy,” or “no, you don’t qualify for the income replacement benefit”? Just like everyone else, lawyers can’t work for free.
Banning lump sum settlements would squeeze lawyers out of the picture. Lawyers are there to protect the rights of injured people. Your rights are awfully important. If you think so, too, take a few minutes and contact your MPP to ask them to oppose the contemplated ban on settlements known as “Care not Cash.” If you’re ever injured in a car accident, you’ll be glad that you did.