Changes ahead for Accident Benefits Dispute Resolution
If you have ever had to dispute a decision related to accident benefits under the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule (SABS), you probably dealt with the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO). Since 1997, FSCO’s Dispute Resolution Service has served as the adjudicator for disputes between injured citizens and insurance companies.
All that is about to change. Starting April 1st, 2016, new auto accident benefits disputes will be adjudicated by the Licence Appeal Tribunal (LAT) through a new system called the Automobile Accident Benefits Service (AABS).
Cases that have an arbitration case number with FSCO will be completed in that system, while as of April 1st, cases that haven’t reached mediation yet along with new cases will proceed under the LAT with a new set of rules.
According to the government, the philosophy of the LAT adjudicators will be to “fully explore settlement options early in the case to ensure that the public receives timely and cost effective access to justice.” Some of the benefits to the new system:
- New applications forms and responses are simplified and fillable. The one year goal is to permit electronic filing and fee payment.
- Scheduling for case conferences and hearings will be set by the tribunal on shorter timelines
- The vast majority of cases will be completed within 6 months.
However, folks in the injury law community have expressed many concerns over this new system, such as:
- Costs: Applications for settlement mediation under FSCO were free; under LAT they will require a $100 filing fee – this goes directly against the recommendation of Justice Cunningham in his Automobile Dispute Resolution System Review Final Report.
- Capacity: the LAT is used to dealing with a caseload of 1000 per year. The FSCO currently handles more than 10,000 cases per month. Even though the LAT is hiring more staff and adjudicators, this is a huge increase in demand. (source)
- Starting from scratch: the LAT will not be bound by the caselaw previously decided by the FSCO. LAT adjudicators may not have any experience in accident benefits legislation. (source)
Only time will tell how injured Ontarians are affected by the new regime, but our advice remains the same: if you are having trouble dealing with your insurance company after an accident, it is wise to consult an injury lawyer to ensure you are getting the compensation you deserve.