6 Ways the New Alberta Car Insurance Legislation Impacts You

The UCP government in late 2020 brought in significant legal changes to how car accidents will be dealt with in Alberta (Bill 41).

Here are some of the key highlights (lowlights) assuming that all are brought into force are as follows :

1. Where your claim is more than $100,000 (this will be most car accident cases), each party is limited to calling a maximum of three expert witnesses. This will likely seriously limit the ability of a plaintiff to properly present his or her case. There are some limited exceptions that would require either consent from the defence insurance lawyer (extremely unlikely) or court permission (unlikely). This limitation on experts is even more restrictive if your claim is worth less than $100,000; in those circumstances, you are limited to calling a single expert witness at trial.

In order to properly advise the court of the extent of an plaintiff’s injuries, normally we would expect to call expert evidence from the family doctor, a chiropractor, physiotherapist, a dental expert (for TMJ issues), a psychologist or psychiatrist for emotional or psychological/psychiatric issues, a chronic pain specialist such as a physiatrist, an orthopaedic specialist for ‘bony’ injuries, an occupational therapist for future care analysis, a vocational expert for employment advice, and an economist or accountant for cost of future care and income loss calculations;

2. You can claim the property damages from your own insurer (this is actually a good thing, as previously you might have to battle with the at-fault insurer to accept liability for the collision before they would pay for your car being repaired (and/or they might hold up reimbursement of your deductible);

3. Pre-Judgment Interest has been reduced from 4% to virtually zero (roughly 0.3%) for general damages (i.e. damages for ‘pain and suffering’). Your ‘typical’ chronic pain case arising from a car accident might attract general damages of (for example) $100,000. Up until this legislation, you could expect to receive 4% per year on the outstanding general damages (e.g. $4,000/year on an award of $100,000) until you were paid a settlement or received a judgment. This legislation has reduced this amount to roughly $300 per year (on an award of $100,000 for general damages). This change will mean that insurers can tactically delay matters knowing that such delays will not bring any real financial penalty;

4. At the request of the insurance lobby, the government has broadened the definition of a ‘minor injury’. Now, “any clinically associated sequelae of the sprain, strain or Whiplash Associated injury, whether physical or psychological in nature, caused by the accident that do not result in a serious impairment” are considered “minor injuries”. What this means is that anything associated with a strain, sprain or Whiplashed Associated Injury, whether physical or psychological in nature, may be considered a minor injury if they do not result in a serious impairment.

5. Section B benefits will increase from a maximum of $400 a week to $600 a week if you are totally disabled from working; chiropractic treatments will be covered up to $1,000 (previously $750); massage/acupuncture treatments will be covered up to $350 (previously $250)

6. Section B benefits are limited to $1,000 for dentists, psychologists and occupational therapists (previously there was no limit – up to $50,000).

As you can see, these changes have seriously reduced and negatively impacted the rights of drivers/pedestrians who are injured in Alberta.

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