The End of Bill 171 (for now)
The recent election call has terminated Bill 171 for now.
For those who do not know, Bill 171 proposed legislation which, amongst other things, would have eliminated the right of people to sue their insurance companies for breach of contract in automobile first party benefits claims. In other words, if passed, no one in Ontario could sue their insurer for breaching their obligations under the accident benefits insurance contracts. This has been a right of every contracting party since insurance was invented.
Let me give you an example.
You are injured and off work. Your insurance company owes you $400.00 per week. They refuse to pay. You cannot sue them. Instead you would have to complain to a yet to be established arbitration system run not by the agency that ensures that insurance companies follow the law, but by some other body under the control of the Ministry of the Attorney General.
As it stands, presently you have the option to mediate and arbitrate through the Financial Services Commission of Ontario, or to sue in the courts and have a judge and/or jury decide if you or the insurer is right.
This is a startling change in the law. What startles is not that insurance companies want the change – of course they do. Any change that eliminates the insured’s right to obtain a remedy is always desirable. What startles is that our government representatives – those we elect to protect us as consumers – were so eager to pass this legislation that they remarkably tried to ram it quickly through the provincial parliament before the election and before anyone really had a chance to analyse what it means for consumers.
As I said, the Bill has died. But expect its return and be wary.