New Brunswick’s Injury Regulation: Automobile Insurance Profits, Premiums, and Costs
How You Can Help
If you have been a victim of the Injury Regulation, you realize how easily you could become one, you are bothered by the fact the insurance industry is being allowed to profit unreasonably at the expense of victims and the New Brunswick economy, or you simply have a problem with the basic unfairness of the cap, you can do your part to help us persuade the government to remove it from the books.
Victims of the Injury Regulation
There are many victims of the insurance reform gone wrong. They can essentially be grouped in the following three categories:
1. The Accident Victims
The expressed intent of the $2500 cap was that it would only apply to "minor personal injuries". However, lack of effort and poor wording on the part in the drafters, has resulted in a definition of "minor personal injury" that encapsulates virtually all injuries except those catastrophic in nature. As a result, all accident victims since July 1st, 2003 find themselves confronted with the fact that their injuries, irrespective of their nature or extent, are being categorized as "minor personal injuries" by the adjusters representing the insurance companies.
Faced with the possibility of not being able to recover more that $2500, many accident victims settle without seeking the advice of a lawyer because it does not make economic sense for them to spend money to recover only $2,500. Those who express the desire to retain the services of a lawyer to pursue their case to Court are quickly reminded of the two cases that have made it to the New Brunswick Court and the Court of Appeal without any success for the victims:
DECISION. 1 - Rossignol v. Rubidge, 2007 NBQB 89
In the Rossignol case, the accident victim was a 17 year old man who was injured in a motorcycle accident. He suffered a fractured tibia and fibula that required surgical reconstruction by inserting pins and screws to stabilize the bones in his leg. He was hospitalized for 8 days and released initially in a wheel chair, then a walker, then crutches and a cane. He was unable to drive a car for 6 months and did not walk unassisted for close to 2 years. The Court found that by reason of the government’s definition for “minor personal injury” it had no choice but to rule that the injury suffered by Mr. Rossignol was a minor personal injury and thereby subject to the $2,500.00 cap.
DECISION NO. 2 - Fraser v. Haines, 2007 NBQB 285, appeal denied 2008 NBCA 59
n the Fraser case, the accident victim was a 46 year old man who was injured in a car accident. He suffered a soft tissue injury to his shoulder that put him off work for 6 months. He was then allowed to initiate a gradual return to work in a modified, non-physical, capacity. It was only after 1.5 years that he resumed his regular job of driving survey stakes in various outdoor settings. He quickly discovered that he could not use both arms to do his job. So he learned to do it with his left arm alone. This resulted in him developing tennis elbow from too much strain on his one arm. Despite all of the above, the Court ruled that by virtue of the definition under the Injury Regulation, Mr. Fraser was deemed to have suffered a "minor personal injury". Of note is the fact that the judge said that if not for the $2500 cap, she would have awarded the victim an amount of $30,000.
We submit that reasonable people would agree that the injuries Mr. Rossignol and Mr. Fraser suffered and continue to suffer from today are not "minor personal injuries" and not what the former government had in mind when it brought in the $2500 cap.
The risk with taking cases to Court is that the flawed definition of "minor personal injury" leaves very little options for the judges but to find in favour of the insurance companies' argument that the victim's injuries are minor. The problem with the Injury Regulation is that it essentially does not directly define what constitute a "minor personal injury". It goes on to define a "minor personal injury" by what it is not and solely by saying that it is not a catastrophic injury. By virtue of having proceeded in this fashion, it leaves the door opens to finding a "severe", "serious" or "life disabling" injury to be a "minor personal injury" under the law if it does not result in catastrophic consequences.
2. The Consumers
The second group of victims are the New Brunswick consumers of auto insurance. These people are required by law to purchase auto insurance because it is a mandatory requirement to drive on New Brunswick roads. Since the effect of the Injury Regulation is to limit virtually all injuries to a cap of $2500, it makes no sense to pay close to a $1000.00 per year for a product that, if used, will likely only cost the insurance company $2500. On that flawed basis, auto insurance premiums should solely be a fraction of what they are today. This is quite evident from the excessive profits that the Insurance Industry has been making since 2003.
3. The New Brunswick Economy
The overall impact of the Injury Regulation on the New Brunswick economy is substantial. The data shows that for the years 2003, when the cap was brought in, to 2006, the last year for which we have data, the cost to the New Brunswick economy has been in excess of $270 Million dollars.
In addition, a drain of this scale on the New Brunswick economy has continued since 2006 and, in fact, continues every day that the Graham government sees fit to allow the Insurance Industry to profit excessively at the expense of victims and all taxpayers of New Brunswick. As previously indicated, it is irresponsible for the government to allow this injustice to continue given that, when it was the Official Opposition, it predicted that such an injustice would occur and now, as the government, it has concrete economic data to support exercising its power to right a wrong on all New Brunswickers.