June 9, 2020 by Adam Malik
Albertans would rather stick with its at-fault auto insurance system than switch to a no-fault program, according to a new survey.
More than six in 10 Albertans (61%) surveyed told Nanos Research that they prefer at-fault over the no-fault system. A majority (54%) also said they at least somewhat don’t trust insurance companies to decide on compensation for those involved in an accident.
Nanos conducted the survey for the advocacy group FAIR Alberta, a coalition including consumers, medical professionals, injured Albertans, and members of the legal community.
FAIR is opposed to a no-fault insurance system of any kind in Alberta, while the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC), which represents Canada’s home, auto and business insurers, is not in favour of a pure no-fault system.
IBC nevertheless raised issues with some of the survey findings, particularly those about trust and insurers, which it believes were skewed by the wording of some of the survey questions.
For example, one question reads: “Would you trust, somewhat trust, somewhat not trust or not trust an insurance company to make these final determinations on compensation for those involved in an accident?”
Another question asks: “Who do you trust most to determine what is fair compensation for a victim seriously injured by an impaired driver?” It gave the options of a judge/the courts, the insurance company, or other. On this question, nearly 70% responded that they trust a judge or the courts the most in determining fair compensation for a victim seriously injured by an impaired driver. Just 10% said they trust the insurance companies.
“I think the questions were asked in a very interesting way,” observed Celyeste Power, western vice president at IBC. “I noticed that, out of the options that folks were given, it wasn’t: ‘Did they put their trust in a lawyer or in an insurer?’ It was if they put their trust in the court instead of an insurer. And the very fact of the matter is, the majority of these cases don’t actually get to the courts. So it doesn’t give a realistic picture of what folks are doing.”
The survey also reported that 70% of residents wanted a medical professional of their choosing to make decisions about their recovery and compensation if they or a family member were injured in a collision; not one chosen by the insurance company.
Here, insurers agree.
“We should have healthcare professionals [and] medical practitioners in charge of care,” Power said. “We believe people should be going through the healthcare system with a program of care for the injury and to make sure they get the care that suits their needs. And they should have that, no questions asked, to make sure they recover from their injuries. So we’re completely in agreement with that and we completely understand that.”
Half of Albertans (49%) said the focus of a collision should be on finding who was at fault and holding them accountable for their actions. Just under 40% said the focus should be on providing benefits to the participants of the accident, regardless of fault.
On the question about whether respondents preferred no-fault or at-fault insurance, there was a slight difference of opinion based on age groups.
About 60% of those aged 55 and older said it was important to them to preserve their right to sue the at-fault or impaired driver for compensation for damages, medical treatment, rehabilitation and loss of income. For younger Albertans (aged 18-34), 49% of them said it’s more important to preserve the rights of everyone. Overall, 46% said they wanted to preserve the right to sue the at fault driver, 39% wanted to preserve the rights of everyone, while 15% were unsure.
“Albertans need affordable auto insurance, accountability for drivers and insurance companies, and consumer protections to ensure the system is fair,” said Keith McLaughlin, spokesperson for FAIR Alberta. Its website is dedicated to fighting against the no-fault proposal. “No-fault is none of that, and this research shows very clearly that Alberta consumers don’t want a no-fault model that would eliminate their right to access the court system and challenge decisions made by insurance companies.”
Nanos surveyed 501 Alberta residents between June 1-4.
Feature image by iStock.com/tzahiV