Should you give up your right to Right to Sue? Act now.

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In Brief

The Facts: The insurance industry in Alberta is currently reviewing auto insurance in the province to allegedly ensure that the industry can remain viable and drivers can get affordable coverage. By doing so, insurers are working on taking away your right to sue, leaving you at their mercy, as they will decide how much treatment you get and when you are ready to return to work.

The Takeaway: As part of the review, a committee is surveying Albertans, service providers and other stakeholders. Make sure you complete it. By ensuring your voice is heard, insurers will not have an excuse to take away your rights through a blatant deception.

What the insurance industry is trying to sell to our government

Insurance representatives claim that despite paying some of the highest car insurance rates in Canada, Albertans are having trouble getting critical protection such as comprehensive and collision coverage.

Just in the last few months, they have unilaterally and without cause made some of the highest auto insurance rate increases in the history of this province and have used that to manufacture a “crisis” and blame innocent injury victims and their lawyers. Rates were previously capped at 5% and in exchange, the former NDP government took the draconian position of capping certain psychological injuries and jaw injuries and labelling them as minor injuries.

However, the five per cent annual cap on rate increases abandoned by the United Conservatives is not coming back: “The rate cap simply put a Band-Aid on a wound that was festering,” Minister Toews said. Sadly, the cap on TMD and psychological injuries remain. But that windfall is not enough for insurers. It is never enough.

Under the cap, insurers said they were losing money and given more payouts for car theft, injury claims, repairs and catastrophes (including the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire).

What it really means

On the table could be some form of no-fault insurance coverage, which limits the conditions under which an injured person can sue an at-fault driver for pain and suffering stemming from a crash. We firmly believe that even if nobody wants to bankrupt insurance companies, victims should never shoulder the blame. We’re concerned about the message there are trying to convey because it’s not a fair message.

At the request of insurance providers, the government has already implemented a minor injury regulation in 2004, limited compensation to net wage loss instead of gross, and further expanded the cap in 2018 to include jaw and psychological injuries. This expanded cap has not even been given time to manifest itself, and undoubtedly lowers claims costs for insurers and saves them tens of millions. Instead, they raise their rates dramatically and ask for even more!

The insurance industry is asking to make the phrase ‘minor injury’ inclusive of concussions (including brain injuries!), TMJ injuries and chronic pain. As a personal injury lawyer, I meet people struggling with those conditions on a daily basis, and I can attest they can haunt people for life and are nothing but “minor”. They are not getting extensive treatment for fun or because they have a lot of time on their hands or for some other nefarious purpose. XX

If passed, no-fault legislation will take away your right to sue and in exchange, leave you at the mercy of an insurance company who will decide how much treatment you get and when you are ready to return to work. They will rely on their own doctor who, like now, will almost always claim there is nothing wrong with you and cut you off all benefits after days or weeks (not for your entire life as the survey suggests). In exchange, you will save a few dollars per month in insurance and like in 2004, your rates will increase year after year thereafter and you will have NO RIGHTS.  

What YOU can do about it

The government review, launched in fall 2019, is led by a three-member advisory committee. As part of the review, the committee is conducting a survey among Albertans, service providers and other stakeholders through online or written submissions. 

Please take this survey as soon as you can. Despite being poorly worded, asking confusing questions and giving limited choices for answers, it shouldn’t take more than 3 minutes to complete. By ensuring your voice is heard, the insurance industry does not have an excuse to take away your rights through a blatant deception.

Here’s a break down of the most misleading questions of the survey, so that you can make an informed choice:

Question 8. My automobile insurance premiums are fair and reasonable.

What it would mean for you if Albertans disagree with this statement: You will save a few dollars per month in insurance. However, as in 2004, your rates will increase year after year thereafter and you will have NO RIGHTS for a fair claim in case of injury. In our opinion, that’s a high price to pay for such little savings.

Question 9. I understand what my automobile insurance covers and what it doesn’t.

What it would mean for you if Albertans disagree with this statement: On the grounds that drivers were having trouble getting the coverage they needed under the old rate cap, the government wants to implement solutions that may sound easier to understand, but that don’t take consumers’ best interest at heart.

Questions 10, 11 & 12. In a situation where you were injured as a result of the actions of an at-fault driver, which would be more important to you? (select one.)

Please indicate which of the following is more important to you.

If you were injured in an automobile collision, what would be more important to you:

What it would mean for you if Albertans don’t choose the right to sue as the most important: In case of injuries, the insurance company will offer you an amount that is unfairly low, but you won’t have any say and you won’t be able to negotiate it or file a lawsuit if you can’t reach an agreement.

Questions 13 & 14Would you be willing to give up your right to sue an at-fault driver for a cash settlement if it meant that:
a) you received the treatment and rehabilitation you needed to get better;
b) you received the income replacement you needed to help pay your bills while you recover; and
c) you could pay less for your automobile insurance.

Would you be in favour of giving up your right to sue an at-fault driver for a cash settlement for pain and suffering if it meant that all Albertans suffering serious permanent injuries (such as loss of a limb, loss of eyesight, serious brain or spinal cord injuries) would be eligible to receive a one-time, lump-sum permanent impairment benefit?

What it would mean for you if Albertans answer “Yes”: the insurance company will decide how much treatment you get and when you are ready to return to work. It will rely on its own doctors who, like now, will almost always say there is nothing wrong with you and cut you off all benefits after days or weeks (not for your whole life as the survey suggests), and there is nothing you can do about it, even if you are never able to return to work.

Take the survey now and let your voice be heard! Your right to fair compensation in case of collision must be protected.

Norm Assiff

Norm Assiff

Norm was awarded the Alberta Civil Trial Lawyers Association (ACTLA) President's Award for 2012--awarded to a member of the Alberta bar who has distinguished himself or herself by his or her contribution to the profession or the community, the advancement of the law or their service to ACTLA. He has appeared at all levels of court in Alberta (Provincial Court, Queen's Bench and the Alberta Court of Appeal) as well as the Supreme Court of British Columbia and the Federal Court of Appeal.

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The information presented on this post is not legal advice. We encourage you to perform further research on the topics described here, and if you have any questions or would like to speak to one of our personal injury lawyers, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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