Letter: Lawyers not to blame for auto insurance costs

It is not enough that the Insurance Bureau of Canada and its insurance clients have control of every aspect of the lives of innocent accident victims, but they now want to monitor how personal injury lawyers structure their fees.

Barbara Taylor, director of policy at the insurance bureau, suggests that the tracking of lawyer fees will protect consumers while allowing the government to note the impact of lawyer fees on the auto insurance system (see “IBC wants regulation for personal injury lawyers,” Feb. 23). If the insurance industry really wants to control costs, I suggest that they take a hard look at what is expected of accident victims when they announce their intention to advance a claim. Immediately, there is a list of dozens of demands including an employment file, income tax returns, clinical notes and records of doctors, hospital records, drug store records, Facebook records, information on previous accidents, names and addresses of witnesses, identity of insurer, a statutory declaration as to how the accident occurred, and on and on.

This is even before there is a determination on whether the case will cross the verbal threshold. While the insurer gratuitously offers to pay reasonable costs, that does not include the time of the lawyer to pursue the various requested items. Has the insurance bureau ever costed the expense to the insurance company and therefore the system of reviewing the various productions when perhaps no claim has ever been advanced?

If litigation is instituted and the matter proceeds to examinations for discovery, again under direction from the insurance company, the defence lawyer will demand further productions and often these items generate some 30 or 40 letters that have to be prepared by the plaintiff’s lawyer. Assuming all these items are produced, has the insurance bureau computed the costs of first the defence lawyer collecting these items and the adjuster reviewing the same? By this time, the plaintiff’s lawyer will have incurred the cost of medical reports and the defence lawyer will make it clear that while they have to be produced, the insurer will not pay for them. Again, the plaintiff’s lawyer has to lay out that money and, of course, spend the time writing for and receiving medical reports.

If the lawyer for the defence wants a medical report, he will usually choose someone who is totally sympathetic to the defence position and, of course, that is an expense to the insurance company that often runs into the thousands of dollars. Then, based on that report, there is a denial arguing that the case does not meet either the threshold or the $30,000 deductible. At this point, having invested time and money, a plaintiff’s lawyer must decide whether to proceed to trial or throw in the towel.

In reality, if a settlement is achieved, it is usually based on analysis of two or three medical reports amounting to a compromise between the plaintiff’s medical information and the defence doctor’s report. In the end, the piles of paper generated by productions throughout the course of the claim are redundant; however, they have justified the salary of adjusters and defence lawyers, all of which costs the system and affects increases to automobile insurance premiums.

My point is that even if this paper chase is eliminated, the insurance bureau and insurance carriers will still find another way to shortchange proper compensation for innocent accident victims.

Bert Raphael,
Raphael Barristers,
Thornhill, Ont.

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