Ontario drivers thinking they have enough automobile insurance coverage to protect them against a major accident are sadly mistaken in light of the government’s automobile insurance changes, which kick in June 1.
Mandatory automobile insurance coverage was designed to protect you in two ways:
• By covering your expenses if you were badly hurt in an accident;
• By responding to lawsuits brought against you for accidents you may cause.
But with the significant June 1 accident benefit cuts, the standard automobile insurance policy no longer provides these protections.
Your no-fault accident benefits have been reduced to such a great extent, you will not have access to enough funding if you are severely injured in an accident and, correspondingly, because you have less benefits available, the magnitude of lawsuits has increased immensely. (In other words, you don’t have enough insurance to adequately protect you against lawsuits arising from accidents you may cause.)
The Ontario government unleashed these drastic insurance reductions to the surprise and dismay of victim advocates in a purported attempt to reduce automobile insurance premiums.
At the same time, it continues to deflect criticism about slashing in half the benefits available to the most seriously injured persons by suggesting these changes are part of an anti-fraud initiative.
While fighting fraud is laudable, cutting benefits to the most seriously injured in no way responds to that goal.
Sadly, with a majority Liberal government, those concerned by the benefit cuts have no leverage to demand a reconsideration of this irresponsible government initiative.
Motorists must act in the wake of the government jeopardizing their protection by considering doing the following:
• Buy optional benefits: The basic automobile insurance policy is now inadequate to fund your care if you are badly injured in an accident.
One solution is to spend an extra $100 a year or so on optional benefits designed to provide you with access to enhanced no-fault benefits if you suffer a significant injury. The time when insurance brokers simply asked if you wanted to buy optional benefits like they were asking if you wanted to play Encore when buying a lottery ticket is over. Insurance brokers must now explain to customers in detail the importance of purchasing optional benefits and what has happened to the basic automobile insurance policy.
• Increase your liability limits: While Ontario has an inadequate $200,000 minimum liability limit, most motorists have been encouraged to purchase $1 million of liability protection.
But $1 million is insufficient to protect you if you seriously injury someone. For an extra $50 a year or so, you can increase your liability limits to a more reasonable $3 million.
The magnitude of lawsuits brought against at-fault drivers has ballooned because these lawsuits now include the $1 million that has been cut from the benefits that were previously available to the most seriously injured persons. Also, when increasing your liability limits, make sure you have a Family Protection Endorsement with significant limits as that contract protects you and members of your household (like your young children) against injuries caused by someone without adequate insurance.
The only thing worse than being in a serious accident is realizing you didn’t protect yourself against that remote possibility.
The Ontario government has abandoned its mandate of protecting motorists with the cuts they have made to the standard mandatory automobile insurance policy as of June 1.
Act now to restore that needed protection.
— Personal injury lawyer Darcy Merkur is a partner with the Toronto law firm of Thomson, Rogers in Toronto. He practises plaintiff’s personal injury litigation, including plaintiff’s motor vehicle litigation.
View this article as it originally appeared in the Toronto Sun on May 30, 2016: Liberals abandon mandate of protecting motorists
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