by Greg Meckbach
Ontario’s new government should require motorists to buy more liability coverage than is currently mandatory, a lawyer who represents claimants says.
“I think everyone in the insurance industry would agree that $200,000 is far too low,” Joseph Campisi of Vaughan-based Campisi LLP Personal Injury Lawyers, said Wednesday in an interview. He is referring to mandatory third-party liability coverage, which right now is only $200,000.
“Is it time maybe to increase those statutory limits to $1 million? There is no insurance agent or broker in this province who would recommend that anyone purchase insurance coverage of $200,000 to drive in a big city like Toronto.”
But Campisi does not anticipate this limit will increase any time soon. “The focus with the last government was to reduce auto insurance premiums at any cost, and that’s why you have this drastic reduction in accident benefits, so I don’t think this issue is on their radar.”
Progressive Conservative Premier Doug Ford took power this past June as a result of the election that ousted the Liberals, who had been in power since 2003. The Liberals made several reforms aimed at reducing auto insurance claims costs.
There are two big problems with the $200,000 mandatory coverage, Campisi said. One is the series of cuts to accident benefits that took place in 2010 and 2016. In 2010, Ontario motorists had to purchase accident benefits of at least $100,000 in medical and rehabilitation benefits and another $72,000 for attendant care related to non-catastrophic injuries. The mandatory coverage now has one single limit $65,000 for medical, rehab and attendant care related to non-catastrophic injuries.
“Accident benefits are almost meaningless now,” Campisi said Wednesday. “So after an accident and I turn to my own insurance company for benefits, I realize I am not properly compensated, so now I am going to turn to the tortfeasor [wrongdoer] for compensation.”
But if the at-fault driver committed a criminal act, the at-fault driver’s liability insurer is only on the hook for $200,000, even if the driver has $1 million in liability coverage, Campisi noted.
“The government wants to make sure that we don’t have anyone driving without any insurance, and it also recognizes the fact that some people might commit an intentional act using their vehicle for something for which the insurance company had no intention of ever insuring.”
Campisi cites as an example an April 23 attack in the Toronto neighbourhood of Willowdale that killed 10. The driver of a rented van deliberately rammed dozens of pedestrians. Alek Minassian is charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder. He is also named in a lawsuit recently filed by Amir Kiumarsi, a Ryerson University professor who was catastrophically injured in the van attack.
None of the allegations have been proven in court. Campisi is not involved with any lawsuits involving the van attack.
Kiumarsi, who is represented by personal injury law firm Thomson Rogers, was a pedestrian who was hit by the van April 23. Also named in his lawsuit are the rental company and Unifund, which is Kiumarsi’s own auto insurer.
Kiumarsi states in his claim that with Unifund, he has a family protection endorsement, an optional type of auto insurance intended to provide accident benefits for an innocent victim who is suing the at-fault motorist but the at-fault motorist is uninsured or underinsured.
In cases like the April 23 van attack, the at-fault motorist’s insurer “can take a position that their limits are reduced to the minimum statutory limits which are $200,000,” Campisi said.
If every victim of the April 23 attack sues a defendant with $200,000 in liability coverage, “everyone is going to receive very little in terms of compensation,” Campisi said. “Hopefully they purchased their own [family protection] endorsement where they can turn to their own insurance company for the shortfall.”