Shortage of tribunal adjudicators delaying accident benefit disputes: Ontario Bar Association

Licence Appeal Tribunal began hearing accident benefit disputes in April 2016

Shortage of tribunal adjudicators delaying accident benefit disputes: Ontario Bar Association

The Ontario Bar Association (OBA) has appealed to Attorney General Doug Downey to appoint additional adjudicators to prevent delay in accident benefit disputes pending before the Licence Appeal Tribunal (LAT).

In a letter addressed to Downey, Bronwyn Maria Martin, OBA’s insurance section chair, said that some members − particularly insurance and personal injury lawyers appearing before the LAT – have expressed their concern over delay in accident benefit disputes under the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule.

According to Martin, when the LAT began hearing accident benefit disputes in April 2016 pursuant to the amended Insurance Act, the dispute resolution process now involves the filing of an application by an insured, to which the insurer  responds. The matter then proceeds to a case conference which will be presided over by a LAT adjudicator, and if no settlement has been reached, it will be referred to a separate adjudicator for hearing.

However, “the parties often wait months before a case conference can take place, and once a case conference does occur, the parties can find themselves waiting additional months, or even more than a year, before a hearing will take place – even if the hearing is in writing,” Martin said. “The parties must then often wait for weeks or even months before a decision is provided by the adjudicator who presided at the hearing.”

“This presents a significant problem in terms of access to justice,” she added.  

When she consulted the matter with the members, Martin was told that a shortage of adjudicators who can conduct case conferences and preside over hearings is “perhaps the most significant reason for the chronic delay.”

“While we recognize that resources of all branches of government . . . are facing significant demands on limited resources, the lack of adjudicators is only worsening an already over-burdened dispute resolution system, with all of the costs and uncertainties that will arise as a result,” Martin said.

Martin also noted that Lathe T had already come up with certain solutions to streamline the process and retain access to justice. For instance, the LAT hear almost all disputes via videoconferencing and documentation can now be filed electronically.

“However, they are, unfortunately, overshadowed by the significant degree of delay in the progress and determination of the disputes themselves,” Martin said.

With this, “we request that attention be given to appointing an increased number of adjudicators so that [LAT] can ensure timely hearings for those before them,” she added.

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