Category: Blog

Ontario’s Auto Insurance Charges

Ontario’s Auto Insurance Charges: The fight for fair premiums, government honesty, and public scrutiny

The Insurance Bureau of Canada has been found to have spurred the government into cutting the coverage of auto insurance, and for nearly the last three years, the Financial Services Commission of Ontario and Ontario’s Ministry of Finance have hidden the records proving it.

My attempts at recovering these records under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act were thwarted by the ministry labeling the IBC as a “consultant policy adviser” that demanded confidentiality, before the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario itself. Despite the ministry’s duty of regulating the members of the IBC, they claimed that the IBC’s records—pre-budget consultation submissions as well as lobbying records—should be kept private as they were “policy advice” and not public documents.

Another argument the ministry presented in a sworn affidavit was that since important IBC positions were often the topic of discussion at several Ontario cabinet meetings, then IBC records must be held under the same jurisdiction of cabinet confidence and shouldn’t be released to the public.

Back in May 2016, I appealed against the ministry’s withholding of the records by stating that a dangerous and risky precedent would be set if they included the IBC into the cabinet exemption of confidentiality.

This would set the path for a widespread infringement of the freedom of information legislation, with several meetings and submissions from lobbying groups allowed to become private, had the Financial Services Commission and Finance Ministry had their way.

Thankfully, these unlawful claims were thrown out of court, as per orders PO-3719 and PO-3720 in accordance with last April’s decisions by the Information and Privacy Commissioner.

The records were released the following month, showing that from 2012 to 2014, the Financial Services Commission and the Finance Ministry were often contacted by the IBC in various briefings, meetings, and other forms of communications.

One example of the IBC’s alarming influence can be found from the records of November 2013, where the government was urged to stick to a $3,500 limit for claims of minor injury that the IBC believed could be “vulnerable to disputes”. The IBC sought to make it more difficult for disputes to occur through means of confining medical and mediation claims, preventing them from “being tested, attacked, expanded and dissected by numerous challenges.”

The IBC often sent suggested drafts of legislation and regulations to the government, while simultaneously pressing individual government officials into keeping the IBC in the loop on any upcoming developments. From a record in August 2014, it can be found that the IBC inquired “which recommended reforms contained in IBC’s submission of July 4 have been reviews and are ready for constructive discussions with a view of finalizing proposed regulatory and legislative language.”

Under the guise of “political uncertainty” during the pre-election atmosphere of a cabinet meeting in February 2014, the IBC requested inclusion on the meeting’s agenda that would deliberate the government holding firm to analyzing expensive towing methods, rehabilitation clinic licensing, and integrating improved resolution reform for disputes.

Ontario drivers are now forced to purchase added premiums for superior accident insurance, all because of the basic auto insurance cuts by the government. Despite the chorus of administrations that have promised cheaper premiums, nearly ten million car owners in Ontario must pay steep auto insurance prices while the market is controlled by multiple national insurance companies.

The auto insurance regulation system of Ontario is sorely lacking in transparency and self-sufficiency. Consumers are allowed to openly criticize and object to proposed rates during open hearings in other jurisdictions of North America, such as California, a system that is missing in Ontario. Stakeholders such as the IBC and the data that they surrender must be made public if we are to achieve a system that is truly independent. In other jurisdictions where these can be challenged, the established premiums and set rates are more consumer-friendly than those found in Ontario.

The chokehold caused by these clandestine industry-government partnerships must be put to a stop if we are ever to lead Ontario’s car-owning public out of the low benefits and shrinking coverage brought on by the lack of regulatory transparency when it comes to auto insurance.

Toronto Motor Vehicle Accident Reports

In May, the Toronto Police Service was planning to discontinue the practice of dispatching officers to motor vehicle accidents if no injuries were reported or where vehicle damage did not exceed $2,000.

The Ontario Trial Lawyers Association and the Ontario Safety League, publicly expressed concern that this decision would set a dangerous precedent that could be adopted by other municipal police services across the province.

OTLA collected data on how personal injury lawyers rely on Motor Vehicle Accident Reports (MVAR) from accidents, specifically lawyers rely on the information contained in reports while investigating clients’ case or conducting personal injury civil compensation trial. Surveyed lawyers indicated that 83% rely on the information collected in the MVAR in most cases and 88% of lawyers surveyed responded that the MVAR is very important while investigating their client’s case.

For now, the Toronto Police Service has reversed its decision and will continue to attend the scene of accidents.

Personal Injury Jury Awards

Personal Injury Jury Awards

Almost every country in the Western world promotes the concept of equality under the law, where a poor man wearing rags receives the same treatment as a billionaire in an Armani suit. We like to think that our courts operate under the tenet that beneath our physical attributes, the clothes on our backs and the assets in our bank accounts, we are all the same.

But is this always the case?

An Ontario jury recently awarded the plaintiff in a motor vehicle claim the sum of $23,500. The plaintiff had been involved in a rear-ending collision, as a result of which she had sustained serious injuries that will affect her for the rest of her life. Not only did she suffer permanent physical harm, she lost her livelihood. It is not only likely but probable that she will never be able to return to her sales clerk position. With serious physical limitations affecting her day-to-day life, she may not have the capability to train for a different line of work.

For a jury to find that such serious long-term effects were only worth $23,500 is a little mystifying, especially when you consider the $140 million that Hulk Hogan was awarded for the Gawker sex tape incident.

While Hogan undeniably suffered an invasion of privacy and a sizeable dent in his dignity, he was not injured and his livelihood was not taken away from him. His ordeal is most certainly worth something, but is it really worth so much more than a road accident victim whose life has been quantifiably damaged?

One could be forgiven for wondering how much the jury award would have been had Hulk Hogan been the plaintiff. Is society so enamoured by celebrities that the concept of equality under the law gets hazy?

Or is this a symptom of the insurance industry and its lobbyists?

These days, online and print media are rife with stories about insurance fraud. Insurance companies hire entire teams of investigators and go to all kinds of expense in an effort to uncover claims that are exaggerated, embellished or just plain false. We hear about people being denied insurance coverage because they posted the wrong picture on Facebook, or sounded more cheerful than they should have during a telephone conversation.

Society has become conditioned to assume that anyone who is making an insurance claim must be lying. Additionally, most people only expect to see serious motor vehicle accident injuries if there was extensive damage to the vehicles involved. Jurors have a hard time with the idea that someone can get life-changing spinal injuries resulting from what looks like a simple bumper-bashing.

Could it be time to reassess the value of juries to personal injury lawsuits? Jury members are, after all, human beings with human instincts. They do not have the legal training and experience to assess and appropriately weigh evidence, and they don’t always know what the legal precedents affecting their cases are.

Judges have spent years of their lives getting a legal education, reading case law – and in some cases, making case law. Maybe, if we let the judges do the job that they have the training and experience for, we will see a return to the idea of equality under the law.

New Crosswalk Law Could Cost Motorists $500 Fine

New Crosswalk Law Could Cost Motorists $500 Fine

A new law in Ontario means that drivers who don’t wait for pedestrians to completely cross the road at certain crosswalks could be hit with hefty fines.

The law, which came into effect on January 1, 2016 is specifically for crosswalks in school crossing zones with guards and crossovers with lights. The hope is to make the roads safer for schoolchildren, crossing guards, and pedestrians.

Drivers who do not wait for pedestrians to completely step off the road before they continue driving may end up facing a fine between $150 and $500. That number is doubled when the law is broken at a school crosswalk. With the new law, once the pedestrian is on the roadway, traffic must stop in both directions.

But, Toronto drivers and pedestrians are skeptical it will work. Many believe the new law will be difficult to enforce. One Toronto taxi driver told CBC News that people tend to pass through red lights, so he doesn’t think the police will be able to keep up with it all, especially in the downtown core.

It will be interesting to see how the new law pans out over the next few months. It’s easy to spot an infraction and simple to follow – just wait for the person walking to step off the road before hitting the gas – but will drivers follow the rules?

Bill 30: Patching Up Ontario’s Road Efficiency

Ontario’s road system has several issues that have persisted for years. Amongst these problems are inadequate driver education and inefficient accident response management systems.

Bill 30, the Highway Incident Management Act, is a private member’s bill designed to fix problems plaguing Ontario’s roads and highways after the recently passed Bill 15, aimed at reducing insurance rates, failed to do so. Bill 15 was passed with no public consultations or input from consumers.

Inadequate driver knowledge of how to behave in car collisions has contributed to accident clean-up delays and the province’s driver education system is to blame. If the Ontario Legislature passes Bill 30, the government would be required to establish an advisory committee within two months. This committee would report and advise on issues regarding public education programs to improve driver behavior in automobile accidents. Within two months of the committee issuing its advice, the Transportation as well as Community Safety and Correctional Services Ministers would have to publically recommend or decline the recommendations.

The Bill also aims to improve accident response efficiency by establishing a committee of traffic incident management experts that would advise on highway accident detection and clearing issues. The Bill also intends to organize tow truck response arrival to accidents. Currently, the tow truck response system is uncoordinated, causing hazards and road congestion as multiple tow truck drivers race to the scene of the accident, each hoping to be the first to secure the job. With the new system in place, tow trucks would adhere to an organized system that ensures qualified tow truck drivers are retained for specific types of accidents. The government ought to make sure that the two truck drivers do not abuse customers by requesting payments in cash. That has been prohibited by government bill and car owners should consider filing a complaint if their vehicle is not released to them on credit or debit card payment.

Social Media and Lawsuits

In today’s technological world, either you or someone you know uses a social media website such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Social media offers benefits such as staying in touch with friends and loved ones as well as sharing events life events with your social circles. Regardless of the online platform, if you are involved in a personal injury lawsuit, an insurance company will inevitably come looking for your social media accounts.

Some may call it creeping, others call it spying. Regardless of the term, the insurance company has one goal: to gather as much evidence as possible to bolster their position and deny you your claim. They will compile social media posts, pictures, videos and just about anything else that could be relevant to their defense. And if it’s relevant, it’s producible at trial. The lawsuits for pain and suffering go through a civil court trial. In Ontario, most if not all personal injury trials are decided not by a judge but by six people from the street who were called to civil jury service. These six individuals will view your pictures and judge whether your injuries limiting your activities or not. A lawyer acting for the negligent driver and paid for by the negligent driver’s insurance company, will request a that the claimant to produce social media posts and activity log, which cannot be deleted. If the claimant refuse to do so, the insurance lawyer may seek court’s order for such production and costs for the motion against the claimant.

My recommendation to avoid acrimony, if you are involved in a personal injury lawsuit, or anticipate you will be, it’s best to be one step ahead of the insurance company; deactivate your social media accounts and ask your friends and family to avoid posting anything relevant about you for the duration of the lawsuit. Some readers may think that by increasing their private setting, they can safely maintain an online presence during this time.

Although increasing your privacy settings may seem like a smart tactic to avoiding judgmental reviews of insurance companies, it doesn’t always work. Insurers can still find your profile through search engines and your friends. Yes, your friends. They can hire private investigators to investigate your social circles and lurk their accounts.

Arrive Alive. Don’t Text and Drive

Arrive Alive. Don’t Text and Drive

Many doctors at the hospital emergency departments across Ontario, have a message to the drivers: don’t text and drive, arrive alive.

The road hazard has become increasingly common with the widespread use of smart phones. Our hospitals have seen their fair share of the accidents causes by texting.

Even with new laws that have set fines for this behavior, many drivers have failed to listen and the results are evident in the emergency room. In addition to the safety hazards it poses, texting and driving can invalidate your insurance coverage in the event of an accident, leaving you personally liable for expenses and damages.

Studies have shown that five seconds of texting and driving at highway speeds is the equivalent of driving blindfolded for the distance of a football field.

Some suggestions: have a passenger take a call or send a message on your behalf. If you have the habit of checking your phone frequently, try putting it out of reach while you are in the car. If you need to take an urgent call, pull over. That may mean the difference between driving home or to the emergency room. Don’t text and drive. Be kind to yourself and others on the road.


Legal Expense InsuranceWhat good are legal rights if you can’t enforce them? The “David and Goliath” concept is the most vivid in the area of personal injury litigation.  The comparison between injured victims and insurance companies defending the negligent parties is fitting for this financial power imbalance.

 Access to justice plays a vital role in maintaining the rule of law and ensuring fairness and equality within our civil justice system. In a perfect world, justice could be done without regard to the high costs of litigation.

 The Legal Expense Insurance may be one tool to help level the playing field between the victims and the responsible wrongdoers. The LEI may provide injured claimants with a greater sense of security to pursue claims with less concern for the financial risks involved.

 Legal Expense Insurance is popular in Europe and Quebec and has recently gained some recognition in Ontario. The Law Society of Upper Canada has endorsed Legal Expense Insurance as a useful product with the potential to make legal services more affordable.



 The Supreme Court of Canada has recently recognized the problems in our legal system regarding access to justice. In its recent decision of Hryniak v. Mauldin, 2014 SCC 7, [2014] 1 S.C.R. 87, Justice Karakatsanis speaking for the Supreme Court stated at the outset:

 “[e]nsuring access to justice is the greatest challenge to the rule of law in Canada today. Trials have become increasingly expensive and protracted. Most Canadians cannot afford to sue when they are wronged or defend themselves when they are sued, and cannot afford to go to trial.”

 Injured claimants, even those with competent lawyers acting on a contingency fee basis (sometimes referred to as a “no win no fee” arrangement) may still face great financial risks associated with litigation against the deep pocketed insurance companies.  For example, in the event a claim proceeds to trial and is unsuccessful, the injured claimant may end up being responsible for paying the disbursements incurred from both sides and may also be liable to pay the insurance company’s legal bill, which could be very significant. For example, the cost of civil matters can vary but according to an October 2013 report published by the Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters, national ranges of legal fees may vary from “$13,561 – $37,229 for a civil action up to trial (2 days), $23,083 – $79,750 for a civil action up to trial (5 days), $38,296 – $124,574 for a civil action up to trial (7 days)”



 This type of insurance can protect those pursuing personal injury claims by providing coverage for expenses and any legal costs that a claimant might otherwise have to pay out of their own pocket in the event that the claim is unsuccessful or abandoned.

 For personal injury claims, the premiums for LEI would be deferred until the conclusion of the claim only if the claim is successful. If the claim is unsuccessful, no premium is payable and the policy would still provide coverage to the injured claimant against adverse legal costs and disbursements that they may otherwise be responsible for paying after losing their case.

Accidental Deaths Due To Crossing Accidents

cross walk accidentsOne of the hardest things to deal with is the accidental deaths of a loved one. A death is defined as wrongful when a person is killed as a result of the negligent actions or misconduct of another person, business, or entity.

This includes the failure to maintain one’s property, a death resulting from an automobile accident, a slip and fall resulting in death, or even in cases of manslaughter.

Any case where an untimely death is caused by something other than natural causes has the potential to be a wrongful death suit. In the event of a wrongful death claim, the people eligible to collect damages are the deceased person’s surviving immediate family members – the spouse and children

Though any accident has the potential to be a tragedy, crossing accidents are some of the most tragic and common.

Crossing accidents represented one of the most serious types of rail incidents in 2013, with 20% of these accidents resulting in either serious or fatal injuries. There were 188 crossing accidents in Canada in 2013, consistent with the average of the past five years. 23 of these resulted in fatalities, again on par with the average of the past 5 years. In total, 31 people were fatally injured in these accidents, higher than the five-year average of 25 fatalities per year. Surprisingly, 42 per cent of crossing fatalities last year were pedestrians – 13 fatalities.

It’s important that we as pedestrians respect the lights, warnings, and other preventative measures put in place to avoid a crossing accident from occurring. However, if you have lost a love one due to the pure fault of the driver or operator, it’s important you speak with a personal injury lawyer.

The Clarke Law Team understands the difficulty in handling a claim while grieving. That’s why it’s important to choose an experienced wrongful death lawyer to support you in your claim.

Through Natalie Clarke’s years of experience as a personal injury lawyer she has recovered monetary compensation for countless immediate families of victims. Clarke law pursues full compensation for the death of your family member, including financial and emotional support. Possible compensation that you may be entitled to can include:

• Loss of future economic support
• Loss of potential inheritance
• Medical expenses
• Funeral expenses
• Loss of companionship

Contact The Clarke Law team and allow Natalie Clarke to evaluate your case and advise you on your rights, as well as the steps involved in pursuing your claim.