On September 1, 2010, the face of Accident Benefits in Ontario changed significantly. Benefits that were once standard to every motorist holding valid car insurance in Ontario, are now optional and must be purchased (at an increased price). It has now been 7 years since these sweeping changes took effect. Should you or a loved one be involved in a car accident, you may be horrified to discover that you are being under-compensated because you did not purchase optional coverage.
Certain benefits such as income replacement benefits (for those injured and cannot return to work) remain within the standard insurance policy, however, there is a maximum to this standard package of $400 per week. When renewing insurance many motorists are not aware that they can increase their coverage for income replacement up to $1,000.00 per week. IF you are not aware of this option then you will have no opportunity to recover more than $400.00 per week in income replacement benefit as you had not purchased the increased optional benefit.
Furthermore, benefits such as housekeeping expenses and caregiving expenses for children or no longer part of the standard package of benefits. These benefits must now be purchased as options for there to be any coverage at all. That leaves Ontario motorists with a choice, purchase these optional benefits at an increased cost or do not purchase them and have no coverage.
The question that arises is what if you have not purchased these optional coverage benefits because no one ever told you. Many insurers and brokers and neglecting to inform clients of these optional benefits as they are pre-occupied with closing the sale of the standard package of insurance and do not wish to scare off clients with potential increased costs. Many clients are left wondering what happened only after they have been seriously hurt in a car accident.
Whose responsibility is it to make sure the motorist is fully insured to their satisfaction. Well in the matter of Zefferino v. Meloche Monnex Insurance, The Ontario Court of Appeal made it clear that regardless if a potential client is not offered optional benefits, the client will not have a cause of action against an insurer or broker unless they can establish that they would have purchased these optional benefits even if properly explained to them.
This essentially puts the onus on consumers to properly inform themselves when it comes to purchasing car insurance and trying to assess what coverage will be sufficient for them. Many of these same consumers are only learning this lesson after they have been injured and require the exact benefits they have not purchased.
Ontario Motorists cannot expect those selling them insurance to be completely forthcoming with all coverage that is available to them. The courts have made it clear that they will not hold liable insurers and brokers who do not properly inform clients of prospective coverage. Therefore, it is up to every motorist who purchases insurance in Ontario to use resources such as www.ibc.ca (Insurance Bureau of Canada) to inform themselves about what is available when shopping for car insurance. Everyone should carefully consider these options before purchasing a policy or they might just find themselves with insufficient insurance when it is too late and they have been injured in a car accident.
Author: Patrick D’Aloisio
Barrister and Solicitor