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Car Accident Claims and Barriers to Justice (Ontario)

Our team of lawyers and staff at our firm have seen some very odd stuff this week which we’d like to share with our Toronto Injury Lawyer Blog readership.

There’s no doubt in our minds that what our clients have gone through this week have posed barriers to not only compensation; but barriers to justice all on account of administrative error and incompetence by public/government agencies.

In order to truly appreciate and understand these errors, you really need to understand the car accident and insurance system, and the roles which different actors and government agencies play.

I will do my very best to keep the legal jargon to a minimum so that even people far removed from car accident litigation can understand how these errors and incompetence have impacted persons lives.

In the first case, an elderly woman was hit by a car while crossing the street. The at fault driver was charged with careless driving.

It’s important to note in this matter that the injured party did not have a driver’s license, did not own a car, did not live with anyone who owned a car, and was not listed as a driver under anyone else’s car insurance policy. Accordingly, pursuant to the priority rules of the Insurance Act, the at fault driver’s insurer is required to respond to the accident benefit claim.

The woman was taken by ambulance to the local hospital. The woman sutained a brain injury, along with multiple orthopaedic injuries including but not limited to a fracture tibia, a fractured fibia, 3 fractured ribs, along with 2 fractured vertebrae. The woman was admitted to hospital where she remains to this day as she is too weak and too injured to be discharged home.

The bills post accident started to add up and the family didn’t know where to turn. The ambulance ride cost $220. The private room cost $500. The TV charges cost $75. The parking for family visits cost $45. The crutches and other assistive devices cost over $1,000. Who was going to pay for all of these things? Where was the money going to come?

The answer was insurance.
But inusrers just don’t magically pay for things right away.

The first thing the family needed to do was to secure the name, address and contact information of the at fault driver. This information, nor a copy of the police report was ever given to the injured accident victim. No police officer ever came by to see how she was doing in the hospital, and didn’t even come to interview her to get her version of the events.

The family of the injured attended at the police station. They explaied that their injured mother was very old, that she was very weak, and that she was very injured in a hospital bed. They needed a copy of the accident report; or at the very least the name, address and insurance information of the at fault driver so that they could open an accident benefit claim with the at fault party’s insurer.

The person who was working at the police station REFUSED to provide the family with a copy of the accident report, and also refused to release any information relating to the at fault driver; despite the fact that the family had attended at the police station with a signed authorization from the injured elderly woman permitting for the release of the information to the family, along with the requisite fee for the release of said information.

The clerk at the police station said that the ONLY way they would release a copy of the Police Report was by way of Court Order!

That means that the family would need to retain a LAWYER, and that lawyer would need to bring an Application to a Judge just to get a copy of the police report! Does that sound insane to you!?!?!? The fact that a public servant can say such a thing is ludacris.

The result was that the family could not make a claim for accident benefits to an insurer in a timely matter, and delayed the treatment of the injured party. Many expenses needed to be paid out of the family’s pocket putting them in a bad financial cross.gif

Our law firm was retained shortly afterwards. A powerful and compelling demand letter was sent to the police station’s management and release of information office/supervisor regarding this grave mistake that went something like this:

We are the lawyers for _______________ who was run over by a car in the above noted MVA.

As a result of the MVA, ________ sustained a head injury, multiple orthopaedic injuries which have left her non-weight bearing, in a hospital bed at _____ Hospital.

PC ______ investigated this accident. He provided my client’s family with an accident #. But that was it. He did not interview my client, or their family to ascertain their version of the events, nor did he provide the family with a copy of the police report.

He did not provide my client or her family with the name, contact information, or insurance information of the driver who struck ______. This was not good enough.

The name, contact information and insurance information of the other driver is vital for ______ to claim accident benefits for rehabilitation and hospital expenses. Under the normal course, ______ own auto insurer would pay for these costs. But, at xx years of age, _____ did not have a driver’s license, or any car insurance. Withholding this information from ______ has the effect of withholding medical and rehabilitative treatment not covered by OHIP. ______ will have to pay for these expenses out of his/her own pocket which s/he cannot afford to do.

One of your clerk’s advised that this information was only available by way of Court Order. This is absurd. Such information should be readily accessible by an accident victim and their family with the appropriate authorization. To require a Court Order to release this information is a hinderance to the administration of justice and healthcare benefits.

The other driver’s insurance is required to pay for these costs. Would you please provide my office with this information immediately so that we can make a claim for accident benefits on behalf of _____. Attached is her authorization and direction permitting for the release of this information to my office.

I am pleased to report that a copy of the accident report was made available to my office along with the family of the accident victim within 16 hours after faxing this above noted letter.

Pretty amazing what a lawyer’s letter can do. Even more amazing is the power of a police or Court clerk who doesn’t know what they’re doing, and how it can impact the life of an injured party.

I don’t want to rant on too long today about the other travesties we’ve seen involving the police or the Courts. Perhaps I’ll save that for another Toronto Injury Lawyer Blog Post.

For now, I will leave with you a link to the Ontario Provincial Government’s proposal to reduce interest rates intended to penalize insurers for failing to make payments under the accident benefits regime. It will have the effect of allowing insurers to deny benefits, without any meaningful financial consequences as interest rates under the Courts of Jusice Act are very low as it is. The Insurance Act was intended to be a piece of consumer protection legislation. It’s evolved in to a piece of pro-insurer, incomprehensible dreck meant to deny people out of benefits and rehabiliation costs.

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