Families of accident victims demand an end to Ontario's tax on pain

    Insurance industry's deductible and verbal threshold schemes deny fair
    compensation for death and serious injury caused by other drivers

    TORONTO, Aug. 15 /CNW/ - Family members of victims killed in car
accidents are asking the Ontario government to stop allowing insurance
companies to keep deductibles taken off their legitimate losses. They also
want the removal of rules that limit compensation to seniors, children and
homemakers that treat them as second-class citizens.
    Family members of four innocent accident victims, along with an injured
survivor, held a joint press conference today asking for changes to provincial
regulations so that insurance companies will have to pay them the compensation
to which they are entitled.
    "Our family feels like it has been victimized twice," said Stephen Nelson
of Woodstock, Ontario. "The pain of losing my mother was terrible, but the
pain of being denied compensation from the wrongdoer to increase insurance
company profits - depriving my family of what is rightfully ours - has been
    Mr. Nelson's mother, Glenna Nelson, was killed in a 2004 auto accident
after a truck driver crashed into the car in which she was a passenger,
forcing that car off the road. The Nelson's were deprived of $165,000 of their
legitimate losses through the operation of deductibles, allowing the insurance
company of the truck driver to keep that money.
    "Insurance companies try to make us out to be money-grubbing, selfish
people," said Adrienne Seggie, the mother of a teenage boy who was a
pedestrian killed by street racers in 2006.
    "It's the insurance companies that are profiting from my suffering. They
keep part of what I am entitled to for the senseless death of my son, yet
continue to complain that premiums will go up if it is easier for me to
receive fair compensation. Our insurance system has to change so that we are
not forced to suffer even more by having our rights denied," Ms. Seggie added.
"It's not enough that I have lost my son, but now the system denies me closure
by depriving me of what little compensation I am entitled to."
    Also attending today's press conference is Linda Cowles, whose mother,
82-year-old Laura Dupuis, was killed in 2007 when the car in which she was a
passenger was struck by a TTC bus. Ms. Cowles and her family have not received
any compensation for the pain and suffering they have endured since their
mother was killed.
    Julia Rushnell is also participating. Her parents, John and Jean Naumann,
were both killed in a 2004 crash when their car struck by a transport truck.
The Rushnell family may face up to $300,000 in deductibles, to be kept by the
insurance company, even after four years of delay in getting their matter
    The victims' families are asking the Ontario government to change the
deductible and remove the limits on claims for pain and suffering, both of
which only add insult to injury for families of innocent victims killed in car
accidents or many of those injured in car accidents.
    In 2003, the deductible was increased on pain and suffering awards that
did not exceed $100,000 from $15,000 to $30,000, allowing insurance companies
to keep an additional $15,000 from accident victims. The deductible for fatal
accident claims not exceeding $50,000 was increased at the same time from
$7,500 to $15,000. Both changes were done to increase profits for the
insurance industry.
    "The insurance industry enjoyed record profits after the deductibles were
increased in 2003 and these deductibles were called a 'tax on pain' by former
Associate Chief Justice Hon. Coulter Osborne," said Patrick Brown, president
of the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association. "There is absolutely no public
policy grounds for depriving family members of their reasonable damages when
loved ones are killed in car accidents, these people have suffered enough and
profits should not trump access to justice," added Mr. Brown.
    Victims' families are also calling on the government to revoke the verbal
threshold, a harsh test that limits the rights of even seriously injured
victims from receiving full compensation for their pain and suffering. Rules
added to the threshold in 2003 discriminate against senior citizens, children
and homemakers, making it more difficult for them to receive reasonable
compensation for their losses.
    A regulation introduced by the government in 2003 added a definition to
the threshold making the burden of proving entitlement more difficult. In
cases where the victims cannot meet this tough test, the insurance company of
the wrongdoer is not required to pay anything to the victim for pain and
suffering or health care costs in a claim against the wrongdoer.
    "The verbal threshold and the 2003 definition are harsh and unnecessary,
discriminating against legitimate claims and forcing accident victims to bear
the burden of losses caused by others. This is an affront to fairness and
access to justice," said Richard Halpern, chair of the Ontario Bar
Association's Working Group on Auto Insurance Reform. "Premiums can be
affordable and insurance companies profitable without eroding the important
values of our compensation system in Ontario, done on the backs of those
otherwise entitled to compensation." Mr. Halpern says that the verbal
threshold currently "treats people who work better than seniors, home-makers,
students, children and the unemployed".
    Margaret Allison, 92, was also present to make her voice heard. She and
her husband were seriously injured when the driver of another car ran a red
light, striking the couple's car.
    With their costs for home-care and medical assistance piling up,
Mrs. Allison has been told that her injuries and her husband's injuries might
not meet the threshold test of "permanent" or "serious", which would relieve
the wrongdoer's insurance company of any obligation to compensate them for
their losses. This retired couple will be required to pay their own additional
medical and home-care bills, extra costs they did not plan for and assumed
would be covered by our justice system.
    "My husband and I are victims, but we're the ones facing tough scrutiny
from the insurance industry to recover what we have lost in this crash," said
Mrs. Allison. "It's just not fair. Why do we have to suffer twice? Money won't
make us better, but having to pay for our losses caused by someone else just
makes things worse. Where's the justice in that?"
    In his groundbreaking report on Civil Justice Reform, the Hon. Coulter
Osborne, former Associate Chief Justice of Ontario, raised concern about both
the deductible and verbal threshold, and questioned whether they serve the
public interest.
    "Both the deductible and the verbal threshold have access to justice
implications. Both work to restrict access to the courts by providing an
economic disincentive to making a claim," Justice Osborne wrote.
    Justice Osborne's report is available at:

For further information:

For further information: Patrick Brown, President, Ontario Trial Lawyers
Association, (416) 366-3311 extension 6521; Richard Halpern, Chair, Ontario
Bar Association Auto Insurance Reform Working Group, (416) 868-3215; Marie
Smith, President, United Senior Citizens of Ontario, Inc., (416) 252-2021; To
contact accident victims and family members after press conference: Katherine
Stoneman, Daisy Consulting Group, (416) 642-3100 extension 232

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