As of May 10, 2011 the rules changed for riders injured on transit buses and streetcars where there is no collision. Previously, riders were able to make claims for Accident Benefits from their own insurer or the transit authority’s insurer. These no fault benefits included medical/rehabilitation, income replacement, housekeeping, and attendant care. Additionally, riders could sue any at-fault parties including the transit authority for any third party losses such as pain and suffering and additional income losses. The third party claim was subject to the threshold and deductible just like most other car accident claims in Ontario.
Bill 173 as part of the Better Tomorrow of Ontario Act changed this. Now if there is no collision, riders cannot claim accident benefits. It does not matter if you have your own automobile insurance or how seriously you are injured.
In exchange, riders are still able to sue the at-fault parties including the transit authority but they are no longer subject to the threshold or deductible. In other words, the transit authority and its driver are no longer “protected defendants”. However, the other vehicle that may have caused the “almost collision” would still get these protections.
The changes are the result of lobbying efforts by various municipalities and transit authorities, claiming increases in the costs of claims and difficulty in investigating these types of accidents.
These changes are a mixed bag for accident victims. On the surface they eliminate the need to claim for accident benefits which have been significantly limited by recent government amendments and increasing denial rates on treatment plans. They allow the victim to make a pure tort claim without a $30,000 deductible or requirement that they have a serious and permanent injury.
However, a variety of issues may arise for this sub-group of victims. The at-fault party may be a pedestrian or cyclist who may be unidentified or have no insurance. The at-fault party may be a second motorist who does have the protection of the threshold and deductible. Further, the victim will have to fund any treatment and is without any compensation from the defendants until settlement or judgment. This can pose further barriers for many victims whose condition may worsen without much needed therapies.
Going forward it will be interesting to see if future government amendments to the auto insurance regime increase tort rights to injured victims while eroding their accident benefits.
By Jason Singer
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