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Sunday, February 23, 2014


With the high cost of gasoline nowadays, most new drivers think twice of getting car insurance. Driving without any car insurance is a very big risk. Most drivers might think that car insurance is way too expensive, but in the long run it may save you a lot of money. Take for instance this example, if you are in a car accident it may cost you thrice the amount you might have paid for a car insurance to cover for hospitalization and for buying yet another car. Plus without car insurance you will be paying police fines as well as paying for suspended licenses. A total of 47 states require some kind of insurance for your car. It would be wise to know the basic law covering car insurance. Here are ten tips you can refer to on how you can get the best deal on car insurance. 1. Know the different types of car insurance policy The first thing to know in buying car insurance is to understand the different policies they offer. Choose a policy or policies that would best suit your needs. Liability - This policy covers physical injuries and damages to property. This includes paying for hospitalization and other medical expenses. Damage to property includes vehicles and other tangible property that might have been damaged during the accident. Liability also includes expenses for court proceedings if the vehicular accident requires one. Collision – This policy covers any damages if your vehicle is crashed to another vehicle, lamp posts, house or any another objects. Comprehensive – This policy covers damages caused by natural disaster like flood, storm, hail or wind. This also includes damages by theft or vandalism. Medical Coverage – Medical expenses are covered by this policy not considering if the cause is a vehicular accident or not. Personal Injury Protection (PIP) – A personal insurance of the driver. This policy covers for medical expenses and treatment caused by an auto incident. Uninsured Motorist – If by chance you are hit by an uninsured driver, this policy covers the damages done to your vehicle. Underinsured Motorist – This policy will cover the remaining cost for repairing your damaged car if ever the incident is caused by an insured driver with inadequate liability insurance. Rental Reimbursement – In case of a damaged car due to a vehicular accident, this policy will give a daily allowance for rental fee. 2. Know your credit rating: In most states, credit rating has always been the number one factor affecting car insurance rates. Be sure you have a copy of you credit report and check its accuracy and immediately contest any erroneous information. 3. Motor Vehicle Report (MVR) You can get a copy of your Motor Vehicle Report in your respective Department of Driver Services or Department of Public Safety in your state. A three year record may cost you 5$ and a seven year record would cost you 7$. Like credit reports, verify that all information are correct. 4. Accident Reports You can get a copy of your Motor Vehicle Accident Report from the local police department. It may take around six weeks before you can receive the detailed report. You might need to pay a higher car insurance rate if you have reported accidents within the last eighteen months. 5. Scout for a good insurance package There are some insurance companies that are offering multi-vehicle discounts. You would get a lower rate if you have two or more vehicles that you want to get insured. Also, you can get a good deal from one company that packages all their insurance policies, including home and health insurance. 6. Check out various discounts Most insurance company offers a discount to drivers over 55 years of age. It always pays to be a good student; you can get a student discount if you have a3.0 point average or higher. 7. Obtain a Driving Safety Certificate It is common for car insurance companies to give certain discounts to those who finish a safety driving course with a very good standing. 8. Check the model of your car Insurance rates can be different from vehicle to vehicle. A fancy car will obviously have a higher rate than an older model. 9. Take advantage of added features Be sure you are receiving lower rates for safety and security features like antilock brakes and air bags. 10. How much are you willing to pay Choose the option where you can handle the down payment and the monthly paying scheme. Compare other insurances’ prices before purchasing one. You can try calling a toll- free number (1-888-588-5111) where you can ask for car insurance assistance and compare rates.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Are Insurers Having Difficulty Keeping Claimants in the MIG?

I previously reported that based on HCAI data that it appears the minor injury definition was holding up.  However, that doesn't mean claimants are remaining in the Minor Injury Guideline (MIG).  I would like to continue to examine data related to minor injuries.

Again the information is based on first set of standard HCAI reports which were published by the IBC in December 2013.  The standard reports are published on an “accident half year” basis. In accident half year statistics, the experience of all claims with accident dates in the same accident half year is grouped together. The accident half years are defined as calendar half years, with January to June being the first half and July to December being the second half for each of the stated years.

The chart below provides some insight into what might be happening to MIG claims over time.  Although as many as 75% of claims are classified as strains and sprain and should fall under the minor injury definition, only a fraction of those claims receive MIG treatment only.  A majority of those claims actually receive treatment within the MIG and additional treatment outside the MIG.  One might conclude that the situation has been improving over time since each accident half year, fewer claims are receiving both MIG and non-MIG treatment.  However, the newer claims are likely still open and many of those in the MIG only category could move over time into the MIG and non-MIG category.

This doesn't necessarily mean that insurers are having a serious problem keeping claimants categorized as having minor injuries.  The MIG provides up to $2,200 in treatment but the SABS caps medical and rehabilitation expenses for minor injuries at $3,500.  So many of the claimants receiving both MIG and non-MIG treatment may topping up to the $3,500 cap.  In fact, the average amount paid per claimant in each accident half year never exceeds $3,500 for those receiving both MIG and non-MIG treatment.  You will have to make your own conclusion whether claimants are escaping the minor injury cap.  I would suggest that it might not be a problem.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Cunningham Report Recommends a New Tribunal to Deal With SABS Disputes

I assisted Justice Douglas Cunningham carry out his review of the Ontario auto insurance dispute resolution system (DRS).  His report was recently submitted to the government and included 28 recommendations which if implemented would remove the system from Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) and create a new government administrative tribunal.

A New Tribunal

Arbitrators would no longer be Ontario public servants but government appointees, similar to adjudicators on a number of other government tribunals.  The Insurance Bureau of Canada and a number of member companies proposed that the entire system be privatized.  Cunningham’s report did recommend some private sector involvement. He proposed that the tribunal establish tendered contracts with one or more private-sector dispute resolution service providers to address any future backlog.

A More Streamlined Process

Cunningham’s report envisions a radically streamlined and quick process.  The report recommends that an insured who submits an application to the proposed tribunal would have an arbitrator’s decision within 6 months if the dispute proceeds to arbitration.  The tribunal would have a registrar who would deal with jurisdictional issues at the time the application is received without a hearing. 

As well, doing away with many of the preliminary hearings that currently take place, Cunningham recommends that pre-arbitration meetings, neutral evaluation meetings (a step that hasn’t been used since 2008) and appeals to the Director’s delegate be eliminated. 

An End to Mediation

A significant change found in the report is the elimination of mandatory mediation as the first step in the dispute resolution process.  Instead, a settlement meeting would be scheduled with an arbitrator rather than a mediator.  This step would have elements of mediation as well as the current pre-arbitration meeting. 

The report also recommends doing away with telephone mediations.  Instead settlement meetings would have to take place in person or through video conferencing.

During a settlement meeting, the arbitrator might provide one or both parties with an opinion regarding the likely outcome of a future arbitration if the parties fail to reach a settlement.

Three Arbitration Streams

Justice Cunningham has called for three arbitration streams: paper reviews, expedited in-person hearings and full in-person hearings.  The determination would be made by an arbitrator and not be subject to appeal.  A paper review would take place cases where there are $10,000 or less of medical and rehabilitation benefits in dispute, or where the dispute involves a determination as to whether the claimant’s injuries meet the minor injury definition.  The tribunal would be expected to restrict the length of expert reports and briefs. 

Arbitration hearings would be conducted as an expedited in-person hearing in cases that do not qualify as either a paper review or full in-person hearing.  An expedited in-person hearing would last no longer than one day and the arbitrator would let parties know how much time would be allocated for them to present their cases.

Arbitration hearings would be conducted as full in-person hearings for disputes involving catastrophic impairment determinations, whether the claimant qualifies for 24-hour attendant care or income replacement benefit claims beyond 104 weeks.  The length of a full in-person hearing would be determined by the arbitrator. 

The arbitrator’s report should be no longer than five pages for an expedited hearing and ten pages for a full hearing.

Appeals of arbitration decisions should be heard by a single judge of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice on a question of law. 

New Penalties for Those Not Meeting Timelines

The report recommends a number of timelines that would be incorporated in legislation along with penalties for those that do not comply.  Parties who cannot commit to appear for settlement meetings or arbitrations within the timelines set out would not be eligible to claim their costs at arbitration.  If the tribunal is unable to schedule an arbitration within those same timelines, the tribunal would be expected to reduce the arbitration fees it collects from the parties.  Parties would also get financial relief if arbitration decisions are late being issued.

A Shift in Culture

Justice Cunningham made it clear he would like to see a change in culture within the DRS.  A number of recommendations are expected to accomplish that cultural change.

Every insurer would have to establish an internal company review process and be required to inform an insured how to access the process following a benefit denial.  However, insureds would not be required to use the internal company review process before submitting an application to the new tribunal.  Companies would be free to determine how their internal review process would to be structured, but must provide an insured with a written response within 30 days.

Justice Cunningham recommends that the settlement of future medical and rehabilitation benefits should be prohibited until two years after the date of the accident which is one year longer than the current prohibition. 

The government would be expected to create a sliding scale of fees.  Justice Cunningham proposes that incentives be introduced to encourage parties to settle early. 

Experts would be required to certify their duty to the tribunal and to provide fair, objective and non-partisan evidence.  Arbitrators would be expected to ignore evidence that was not fair, objective or non-partisan and, in those circumstances, the expert would not receive compensation for appearing as a witness.

What Happens Next

In January 2014, the government indicated that it will propose legislative amendments in the spring session based on recommendations of the Dispute Resolution System Review.  However, the legislation may not pass if a spring election takes place.  Once legislation finally passes, it will take some time to establish a new tribunal which means DRS users may be waiting some time before they benefit from possible changes.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

HCAI Data Confirms Ontario's Minor Injury Definition is Holding Up

In December 2013, the IBC published the first set of standard HCAI reports. The document provides over 60 pages of aggregate data collected by HCAI going back to 2011 up to the first half of 2013.  HCAI was made mandatory on February 1, 2011. 

The standard reports are published on an “accident half year” basis. In accident half year statistics, the experience of all claims with accident dates in the same accident half year is grouped together. The accident half years are defined as calendar half years, with January to June being the first half and July to December being the second half for each of the stated years. 

The chart below breaks down the percentage of claimants receiving treatment per injury group. The data is further broken down by accident half year and the percentages are based on claims transactions between the accident date and June 30, 2013.

The data suggests that there doesn't appear to be any erosion of the minor injury definition.  For accidents during the first half of 2013, 75.4% of claimants receiving treatment have strains and sprains which fall under the minor injury definition.  The data suggests that the percentages have not varied greatly from one period to the next with the exception of strains and sprains and peripheral nerve injuries (many are likely WAD III).