Time To Consider Buying “Optional” No-Fault Benefits

I often see how important accessing no-fault benefits can be for my clients so that they can achieve maximum medical recovery in the shortest period possible.  No one likes to pay for car insurance. carPeople like it less if they’ve been injured in a car accident and discover that they do not have enough insurance.  You owe it to yourself and your family to familiarize yourself with the reductions to the standard accident benefits and the amount and cost of the available optional benefits and buy the insurance benefits you need to protect yourself and your family members.

Did You Know: The standard no-fault accident benefits have been drastically reduced?

You may not know it but your automobile insurance benefits were substantially reduced on June 1, 2016. The reductions are significant but a survey conducted by the Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario revealed that only 42% of consumers had even heard about the changes and less than 20% could actually identify what those changes were. Everyone in Ontario who buys auto insurance needs to know the extent of the reductions and what optional benefits are available to maintain their current level of coverage.

What are the most significant reductions?

The following is a brief summary of the reductions to standard accident benefits:

Policies issued before June 1, 2016 provided $50,000 in Medical and Rehabilitation Benefits and an additional $36,000 for Attendant Care Benefits for non-catastrophic injuries. These two types of benefits have now been combined and reduced to a total of $65,000. For many injured people the reduced combined total will mean having to choose between receiving necessary healthcare and rehabilitation treatments or accessing attendant care. There will simply not be enough money to cover all of these expenses with only $65,000 available for both.

Prior to June 1, 2016, people who suffered the most serious “catastrophic” injuries could access $1 million for Medical and Rehabilitation Benefits and an additional $1 million for Attendant Care Benefits. These benefits have been effectively cut in half as there is now a new combined total of only $1 million. This means that the most seriously injured accident victims have lost $1 million in standard coverage.

How do you make sure you have the right coverage?

It is very important that you speak with your insurance company, broker or salesperson and familiarize yourself with the benefit reductions so that you can make an informed decision about the amount of coverage you need to protect yourself and your family. You can do this by purchasing “optional” benefits at an additional cost.

Optional Benefits

You should seriously consider purchasing optional benefits. The steady erosion of the standard no-fault benefits over the past 20 years means that the reduced limits are no longer adequate for most of us if we are seriously injured. This means that, when you renew your policy, you must investigate the available optional benefits and purchase the right options to meet your specific needs. If your renewal is several months away I suggest you contact your insurance intermediary and arrange a meeting to discuss your Optional Benefit needsnow and not wait for your renewal. We never know when we are going to be in an accident.

I expect that you will find that upgrading your protection by buying optional benefits is relatively inexpensive.

Based on available information, it seems that increasing the combined Medical/Rehabilitation and Attendant Care limit for non-catastrophic injuries from $65,000 to $130,000 may cost less than $50 a year. Increasing this coverage to the maximum available of $1 million may cost under $70 a year. Increasing coverage for catastrophic injury from $1 million to $2 million may only cost about $40 a year. You may find that for about $150 a year you can increase your coverage to the maximum now available.  And, believe me, if you or a member of your family is catastrophically injured in a car accident you will consider it $150 well spent.

Edward (Ted) Masters is a personal injury lawyer in Ottawa with over 35 years of experience representing those seriously injured in car accidents. He can be contacted by his direct phone number, 613-566-2064, or by email at ted.masters@mannlawyers.com.

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Ten Mistakes People Make When Dealing With Doctors After an Injury

If you have experienced a traumatic injury as the result of a motor vehicle accident or slip and fall you will no doubt end up seeing one or more doctors perhaps on multiple occasions. Here are 10 mistakes people who have experienced a traumatic injury make when dealing with tDoctor Meeting With Mature Male Patient In Exam Roomheir doctors.

1.    Failing to Seek Immediate Medial Attention After a Traumatic Event

The victim is always responsible for proving that he or she was injured in a particular incident.  Insurance companies and juries often believe that if you aren’t hurt badly enough to seek immediate medical attention, you aren’t hurt badly enough to deserve compensation.  Don’t ignore signs of pain, even small ones.  See a doctor as soon as possible, as minor injuries can always get worse.  You don’t want the first words the insurance lawyer says to the jury to be, “she didn’t even see a doctor for two weeks.”

2.    Failing to Fully Disclose Your Health History and Habits to Your Doctor

A health care provider will usually ask if you had any injury or sickness before your current problem.  It is important to be honest when answering this type of question.  Doctors use past medical history to diagnose and treat you.  Providing incomplete information can have an impact on the quality of the medical care you receive.  Concealing prior injury or sickness from your doctor will also hurt your legal case.  If you provide your doctors with incomplete information, their medical opinions could be rejected by insurance companies and juries.  The same advice goes for describing the accident.  Don’t tell your doctor the car was “totalled” if it was only scratched.  The insurance company’s lawyer will attack your credibility with that contradiction.

3.    Talking With Your Doctor About Lawsuits or a Lawyer’s Advice

A doctor’s job is to focus on your medical condition.  In order to do that job, a doctor does not have to know about your lawsuit or your lawyer.  Sharing your legal issues or concerns with a medicalcare provider should be unnecessary.  Many doctors do not want to be involved in a lawsuit.  If you tell a doctor he or she is treating an injury that is the subject of a lawsuit, it could affect their willingness to provide treatment.  Remember that whatever you say in confidence to a doctor is not confidential at all once you file a personal injury claim. The doctor’s notes will likely have to be shared with the insurance company’s lawyer and it help your case if they contain information you gave to your doctor about your lawsuit or your  lawyer’s advice.

4.    Missing or Showing up Late for Medical Appointments

Insurance companiesand juries get to see your medical records.  When you skip a medical appointment, your record just says “DNS”, which means “did not show”.  Excuses – no matter how valid – usually do not make it into the record.  More than one or two “DNS” entries could make it look like you were not committed to getting better.  Skipping medical appointments or showing up late could also irritate your doctor.  Irritated doctors do not make good witnesses for their patients.  If you need to cancel – call in advance and reschedule.  You don’t want the insurance company’s lawyer saying, “It must not have hurt that much, she didn’t even show up for her appointments.”

5.    Failing to Get Your Pain Accurately Documented in Medical Records

Insurance companies and juries may not believe that you are in pain just because you say so.  They need to read about your pain in your medical records.  When insurance companies and juries review your records, they will be looking to see how soon you reported pain after an injury and how long you continued to report that pain.  One effective way to help make sure your specific pain and limitations do make their way into a busy doctor’s chart is to write it out beforehand and give it to him at your office visit.  Again, don’t exaggerate. And keep a copy of your note to give to your lawyer.

6.    Failing to inform Your Doctor if Your Injury is Affecting Your Ability to Work

Insurance companies and juries may not believe that your injury affects your ability to work just because you say so.  If your injury is affecting your ability to work, it is important to mention such a problem to your health care provider.  Work problems caused by injury may be treatable and they should be noted in your medical records.  Again, keeping notes that you give to the doctor at your office visits is a good idea.

7.    Failing to Take Medications as Prescribed

There is a reason why doctors prescribe a particular type of medication for a particular time period.  You should follow your doctor’s recommendation until your doctor tells you something different.  If you think a medication is making your muscles ache or your stomach hurt, say so; side effects are not rare, and your doctor can usually switch you to another drug.  Don’t put yourself in the position where you have to admit that you chose not to follow your doctor’s advice.  This can be very harmful to your case.

8.    Stopping Medical Treatment Too Soon

Insurance companies and juries often believe if a person stops seeking medical treatment for an injury, the injury must be healed.  They also believe that significant gaps between treatments suggest that you healed from one injury and must have suffered a new one unrelated to the first.  If you have an injury that is affecting your ability to function, you should seek medical treatment until you are healed or until a doctor tells you that there is nothing more that can be done to improve your condition.  If you are still suffering and your doctor tells you to “come back as needed” or “call me if you have any problems”, you should ask how long you should wait to call if you continue to have the same level of pain and disability.

 9.    Failing to Follow Treatment recommendations Related to Depression or Anxiety

Often pain and/or disability trigger depression and/or anxiety.  Psychological conditions like depression and anxiety are just as real as broken bones.  They cannot be overcome without appropriate treatment.  A person who causes another person physical injury is also responsible for resulting psychological conditions.  Insurance companies and juries usually only compensate victims of injury-related depression and anxiety if those conditions are properly diagnosed and treated by medical professionals.

 10.    Failing to Keep a File

 It is important that your lawyer knows every medical care provider that you see after an injury.  It is also important that you keep track of all doctor orders, treatment referrals and/or work restrictions.  Keeping a file of all materials provided to you by health care providers and insurance companies will ensure that you can provide all necessary information to your lawyer at the appropriate time.

Conclusion

After a motor vehicle, accident or slip and fall it is important to consult a medical doctor if there is any chance that you have suffered an injury. Providing any doctors you see with complete and accurate information and following any treatment recommendations will not only increase your chances of maximum medical recovery it will also increase your  chances of maximizing your financial recovery in any subsequent law suit.

Edward (Ted) Masters is a personal injury lawyer in Ottawa with over 35 years of experience representing those seriously injured in car accidents. He can be contacted by his direct phone number, 613-566-2064, or by email at ted.masters@mannlawyers.com.

Court Of Appeal Clarifies Pre-Judgment Interest Rate

Insurance companies use their long experience paying out claims, including the payment Appealof pre-judgment interest, in setting premium rates. Premiums are based on the pre-judgment interest rate in force at the time they are paid. It can take several years for a complex motor vehicle accident that results in serious injuries, to wind its way through the litigation process. During that time period the insurance company has the benefit of the investments it made with the at fault driver’s insurance premium. It seems unfair to penalize an injured party by retroactively applying a lower interest rate to their damages for pain and suffering when the insurer reasonably expected to pay a higher rate when it set and collected the premium from the at fault driver.

In 2015 we published several blogs on the interest rate that should apply to claims for pain and suffering in motor vehicle accident cases. Our most recent blog on August 24, 2015 ended with the Statement that “we will have to await the decision of the Court of Appeal for Ontario for a final determination of this question.” Well the Court of Appeal has now spoken.

In El-Khodr v. Lackie the innocent driver, Mr. El-Khodr, was seriously injured when the tow truck he was operating was rear-ended. Following a trial the jury awarded Mr. El-Khodr damages totaling $2,931,006 of which $89,167 was pre-judgment interest on general damages for his pain and suffering. The trial judge had decided that prejudgment interest on the general damages should be calculated at 5 per cent (the rate that was in effect prior to January 1, 2015 when the pre-judgment interest rate was reduced by an amendment to s. 258.3(8.1) of the Insurance Act).

The Court of Appeal decided that the reduced interest rate was effective from the day the amendment to s. 258.3(8.1) of the Insurance Act came into force. The reduced rate applied to all actions that had been started before the amendment. As a result, the interest rate to be applied on Mr. El-Khodr’s general damages was 2.5 per cent. As a result of the reduction in the interest rate the interest on his general damages should have been $44,583 and not the $89,167 awarded by the trial judge.

In Cobb v. Long Estate, the plaintiff Cobb suffered chronic pain that prevented him from working and performing household tasks. A jury awarded him $220,000 in damages but after deducting other insurance benefits Cobb had received and a statutory deductible that applied to general damages, the judge calculated a final judgment amount of $34,000.

When addressing the issue of pre-judgment interest on general damages the trial judge did not decide whether the amendment in s. 258.3(8.1) which reduced the rate of prejudgment interest for pain and suffering from five percent applied retrospectively. Instead, the trial judge exercised the discretion he was given by s. 130 of the Courts of Justice Act and set the prejudgment interest rate at three percent.

The Court of Appeal found that the trial judge properly exercised the discretion he had to set the rate of pre-judgment interest payable on the general damages awarded to Cobb and did not apply the lower statutory rate.

Edward (Ted) Masters is a personal injury lawyer in Ottawa with over 35 years of experience representing those seriously injured in car accidents. He can be contacted by his direct phone number, 613-566-2064, or by email at ted.masters@mannlawyers.com.