Author: Shane Henry
Catastrophic impairment is a designation that you can apply for if you are injured in a motor vehicle accident in Ontario. If your car insurance company accepts that you are catastrophically impaired it greatly increases the amount of medical, rehabilitation and attendant care benefits that are available to you. These benefits are available to you regardless of who is at fault for the accident. The Superintendent of the Financial Services Commission of Ontario recently released its report recommending an overhaul in the definition of catastrophic impairment under the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule. The Superintendent’s report (available here) follows the controversial reforms that came into force on September 1, 2010. The September 1, 2010 reforms significantly decreased the standard coverage available to motor vehicle accident victims for medical and rehabilitation benefits. The new proposed changes would further restrict the number of people who can access the increased amounts of no-fault benefits available to those of us who suffer catastrophic injuries in Ontario motor vehicle accidents.
Groups representing accident victims have voiced their opposition to many of the proposed changes (more information available here). Despite these concerns, the Superintendent is recommending that the Ontario government implement the vast majority of the proposed changes.
The main recommendations include:
- Restrictions on the ability of people with spinal cord injuries to be designated catastrophically impaired;
- Restrictions on the ability of people with amputated limbs to be designated catastrophically impaired;
- Clarifications to the existing definition of blindness;
- Changes to the measurement tool currently in use for determining whether a traumatic brain injury results in catastrophic impairment;
- Excluding mental and/or behavioural impairments when rating physical impairments;
- Eliminating the quantification of pain as a separate impairment within the definition of catastrophic impairment;
- Preventing the combination of psychiatric and physical impairments when determining psychiatric catastrophic impairment;
- Changes to the determination of catastrophic impairment in children;
- Implementing a system of interim benefits for specific groups of seriously injured accident victims to increase their available benefits until a final catastrophic impairment determination can be made; and
- Changes to the credentials required for catastrophic impairment assessors.
The Superintendent suggests that these recommendations should improve the fairness, accuracy and predictability in the process of determining catastrophic impairment. However, these changes will lead to a reduction in the number of accident victims who are able to access the higher level of benefits that come with the catastrophic impairment designation. They will likely lead to many seriously injured accident victims, such as those with brain injury and spinal cord injury, being left with only $50,000 in medical and rehabilitation benefits and $36,000 in attendant care benefits.
These recommendations will not have any legal force until the Ontario government passes legislative amendments to the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule. There is still time for your voice to be heard. Contact your Member of Provincial Parliament today and let them know that you do not support the Superintendent’s proposed changes to the definition of catastrophic impairment.