DAILY NEWS Jun 22, 2012 3:24 PM - 10 comments

Lawyers resign from Ontario auto insurance committee

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Several lawyers are protesting recently announced changes to the definition of catastrophic injury for accident victims by quitting an auto insurance committee created by the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO).

The Toronto Star reported the group of personal injury lawyers, who include Richard Halpern, partner at Thomson Rogers, Roger Oatley of Oatley Vigmond Personal Injury Lawyers LLP, Nigel Gilby, partner at Lerners LLP and Stephen Firestone of Lackman Firestone, resigned because their recommendations on catastrophic impairment were ignored.

“The Ontario government is looking at narrowing the definition of catastrophic impairment,” Halpern told the Star. “This will in turn deprive many seriously injured victims of the support they reasonably need and expected from the protection they thought they were buying with their auto premium dollars.”

The insurance industry “is always trying to get governments to roll back the rights of accident victims,” added Oatley. “The government will now claim they consulted with stakeholders, including lawyers and consumers.

“We were invited because of our expertise, but ignored. We resigned because the process was a sham. Can you imagine, for example, that in this day and age, emotional injury has to be ignored when assessing the impact of an injury – even though our highest court recently said it should be taken into account?”

The informal legal committee was established by FSCO Superintendent Philip Howell to seek advice on auto insurance.

On June 12, the Ontario regulator made its recommendations to the provincial finance minister on rules for determining catastrophic impairment.

FSCO supported the findings of an expert medical panel in its proposals, including not combining physical impairments with psychiatric or mental/behavioural factors for catastrophic injury, an interim status for claimants who require intensive and prolonged rehabilitation to receive immediate treatment and the use of several clinical and diagnostic tools in determining catastrophic impairment.

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