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Cuts to accident benefits affect all of us: Rashid

The Ontario Liberal government's proposed auto insurance changes are being met with “shock” and “disappointment” from Ottawa personal injury lawyer Najma Rashid, who says if the slash in benefits moves forward, seriously injured individuals will suffer greatly.

In its spring budget, the provincial government proposed combining services related to catastrophic injuries, like attendant care and rehabilitation, to a single benefit with a limit of $1 million, down from today’s combined $2-million limit, reports the CBC.

Non-Catastrophic auto insurance benefits are also targeted by the changes, says the CBC article, noting the government is looking to combine medical and rehabilitation benefits with attendant care services as a single benefit set at $65,000. Separately, the benefits used to total more than $80,000. For non-catastrophically injured individuals, the time to claim those benefits would also be cut in half — five years instead of the current 10, the report continues.

The changes are part of an effort by the Liberals to reduce the costs of auto insurance, reports the CBC.

Rashid, a partner with Howard Yegendorf & Associates LLP, is encouraging concerned citizens to contact their local MPPs to speak out against the proposed changes.

“The benefits available to motor vehicle accident victims are being further slashed and the benefits available for catastrophically injured claimants are being cut by 50 per cent,” Rashid tells AdvocateDaily.com.

Tort compensation will also be impacted by the new plan, says Rashid, as the statutory deductible for pain and suffering awards would be indexed to inflation.

Currently, the deductible “vanishes” for pain and suffering claims worth $100,000 or more, says Rashid. The Ontario government has proposed that that threshold is also subject to changes in inflation.

“Individuals who have sustained serious and permanent injuries in car accidents will now have a larger deductible coming off their claims, and, their injuries must be serious enough to warrant a damages award of, approximately $137,000 for that deductible to vanish,” she says. “It’s really quite alarming.”

The changes are poised to have sweeping consequences if implemented, says Rashid.

“Every single one of us would be affected, because we all need accident benefits insurance. We all have it. Our premiums might go down, but we’re going to get a lot less, and it means if we get a lot less if we’re in an accident, there’s no other pocket to make up the shortfall,” she says.

“OHIP doesn’t cover most types of rehabilitation. It doesn’t cover attendant care, it doesn’t cover home modification ... the catastrophically injured are going to be very much affected because they often need lifelong care. If their funding limit is cut in half, that means the duration of their funding is going down as well.”

Rashid says, “Think of somebody who’s had a leg amputated and needs a wheelchair or needs a night nurse to help them go to the bathroom. If there’s no money for it, they’re not going to get it and they will keep suffering.”

A petition at Change.org has more than 18,000 signatures calling for Ontario’s finance minister to reverse the “unethical” changes, and a rally has been organized for June 3 at noon at Queen’s Park in downtown Toronto.

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