Legislation introduced to offer auto insurance relief for Albertans

Source: Lethbridge News Now
By Justin Goulet

EDMONTON, AB – The province wants to make auto insurance more affordable for Albertans.

New legislation introduced today, Oct. 29, addresses the stability of automobile insurance, as well as increases to medical benefits and red tape reduction.

The presentation of Bill 41 – the Insurance (Enhancing Drive Affordability and Care) Amendment Act comes following a report on the province’s auto insurance system.

In December of last year, Alberta’s Minister of Finance and President of the Treasury Board, Travis Toews, directed an Automobile Insurance Advisory Committee to explore options to reform the province’s auto insurance system.

The committee’s report will be released to the public to allow for residents to share their thoughts before any final decisions are taken. Toews noted that more details on next steps will be released soon.

“We’re taking immediate action on the pressing issue of reportability of automobile insurance,” he said.

Toews said the government would adopt a direct compensation model for vehicle repairs and replacements, stemming from a collision.

“This model effectively means that whether you’re at fault or not in a collision, you’ll deal with your own insurance company,” he stated.

“Industry actuaries estimate that these measures will reduce costs in the system by approximately $120 on average, per vehicle per year, from what they would have been otherwise.”

Toews said another cost-saving measure would be the expansion of the definition of minor injuries under the Minor Injury Regulation.

“Sprains, strains and whiplash, not resulting in serious impairment, constitute a minor injury under the current definition. We’re broadening that definition to include conditions arising from sprains, strains and whiplash that do not create serious impairment,” he explained.

“We’re using the specific definition that’s been proven effective in other provinces.”

Bill 41 would also see a change in the rate and start date for pre-judgement interest on pain and suffering damages from an automobile collision.

Toews said the province would limit the number of experts that can be used in auto injury litigation.

“For injury claims under $100,000, there will be a limit of one expert. For claims above $100,000, there will be a limit of three experts,” he stated.

“A judge or the court can allow for additional experts should it be deemed necessary to properly adjudicate a case.”

Dentists would be added as “certified examiners” to “improve clarity around jaw issues”.

“To enhance care and benefits, we propose including dentists, psychologists and occupational therapists as adjunct therapists under the diagnostic and treatment protocols regulation and allow for up to $1,000 in treatment by any combination by these health professionals,” said Toews.

“We will clarify that one in-person visit to a health care practitioner counts as one treatment visit under the regulation and we will encourage timely referrals to injury management consultants and include dentists as consultants.”

Additionally, the proposed legislation would remove restrictions on usage-based insurance programs and allow for pay-per-kilometre insurance options for Albertans.

Toews said the government will clarify that accident benefits under an automobile insurance policy can be used for “medically-necessary equipment”, modifications to a home or vehicle and the province will “adjust accident benefit levels for inflation”.

The Automobile Insurance Rate Board will be given full authority over grid review and revision and all rating issues, with Toews saying that is another measure in red tape reduction.

He concluded that the proposed changes would ensure a more sustainable and affordable auto insurance system for Albertans going forward.

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