The Ontario Government, in their quest to reduce automobile insurance premiums, announced substantive and procedural changes to the accident benefits world that will be taking effect soon. This article deals with the procedural aspects of the changes.
These changes are the most fundamental changes to accident benefits ("AB"), since the creation of accident benefits. Gone is FSCO, which for years has provided dispute resolution services for accident benefit disputes. In its place, dispute resolution for AB disputes now falls within the umbrella of the Safety, Licensing Appeals and Standards Tribunals of Ontario ("SLASTO"), a cluster of administrative tribunals under which the Licensing Appeals Tribunal ("LAT") is housed. The LAT will be the new home for what is supposed to be a streamlined dispute resolution system.
The most contentious aspect of these changes is the loss of the right to sue in the Superior Court of Justice for AB disputes. Instead, all AB disputes must go to LAT (new applications are being accepted as of April 1, 2016 - <feel free="" to="" insert="" your="" own="" april="" fool's="" day="" joke="" here!!!="" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; background: transparent;">). Applications received at FSCO by March 31st will still proceed through the old protocol. This change leaves open important questions such as what happens to bad faith claims (which must still be brought in a Superior Court action) and what happens if a claimant wants to have their AB claim and tort claim heard together.
Moving to a new system also means getting rid of the mediation pre-requisite. Accordingly, after the denial of a benefit, a claimant can start an Arbitration. Once an arbitration process is started, the LAT has its own rules of practice - the Dispute Resolution Practice Code is gone. These Rules of Practice call for a case conference to happen. At this Case Conference, production issues are decided, and the type of hearing to be used is decided. It is within the jurisdiction of the Arbitrator to decide, and there are three types: a written "hearing", a video conference hearing, and a live, in-person hearing. It is also a a time where settlement can be gauged.
With a new system and new rules of practice to guide claims, tactical considerations will have to adapted - and new tactics and strategies conducted.