The Government of Alberta has recently adopted legislative reform that impacts the legal rights of injured Albertans. This page highlights a few important parts of those changes.
Definition of “minor injury”
The Minor Injury Regulation is part of Alberta’s insurance legislation. It places a limit on the amount of damages that Albertans can recover for pain and suffering relating to injuries defined by the Alberta Government as “minor injuries”.
The recent changes expand the definition of a “minor injury” so that more types of injuries will fall under this limit. In particular, the following language is added to this definition:
“minor injury” […] includes, in respect of a sprain, strain or WAD injury that occurs on or after November 1, 2020, any clinically associated sequelae of the sprain, strain or WAD injury, whether physical or psychological in nature, caused by the accident that do not result in a serious impairment.
The full effect of this change will be subject to interpretation by Alberta’s courts. However, it is likely that the change will result in lower compensation for injured Albertans. Of particular concern is how the words “clinically associated sequelae” will be interpreted, as this may deprive Albertans of compensation for long-lasting pain and suffering.
Do not simply accept an insurance company’s advice that your injury is a “minor injury” or that your claim is “capped”. This definition is new and has not yet been interpreted by the courts, so it is important to seek advice from a personal injury lawyer.
Experts and Interest
In addition to the change described above the new legislation places restrictions on the number of expert witnesses that plaintiffs can hire to assess their injuries. Before this change, no such limits existed.
Depending on the nature of a person’s injuries this could hamper their ability to make an effective case. For example, if you have both physical and psychological injuries, then a single expert may not be able to address both.
The new legislation also changes the prejudgment interest, which injured Albertans had previously been able to claim (for pain and suffering) at a fixed rate of 4% per annum, to a floating rate which is set at 1.5% per annum for 2020.
The Provincial government has suggested that more substantial changes may be coming. We strongly encourage Albertans to engage with their representatives and make their voices heard on this issue. Certain proposed reforms would substantially reduce the types of compensation that injured Albertans are entitled to.
Our current tort system permits injured Albertans to advance a claim against the person at fault for causing their injury. They can receive compensation for pain and suffering, out of pocket expenses, future medical care, loss of housekeeping capacity, past earnings loss and the loss of future earnings capacity. Most of these claims are settled; however, Albertans can rely on our judges to decide the matter. This provides protection in the event that the opposing party or the representatives of their insurance company take an unreasonable position.
Currently, the auto insurance industry is recommending that Alberta adopt a no-fault insurance model which will remove your right to sue for pain and suffering compensation. It will also take away Albertan’s rights to pursue a tort claim and receive a judicial decision. This means that injured Albertans will lose the right to seek compensation which they are entitled to and they will lose the benefit of having their rights protected by an independent judiciary. Instead, the proposed system would create a new bureaucracy for Albertans to navigate when they are in a vulnerable situation.
This proposed system protects bad drivers and removes the options available to injured Albertans when their injuries are ignored or wrongly disputed by insurance companies. The system proposed by the auto insurance industry would result in a system akin to the current WCB regime for workplace injuries.
Deadlines to oppose this proposed system are fast approaching, so it’s important to contact your MLA now and let them know you are not ok with giving up your rights.
If you have any further questions about how you can protect your rights after an accident, please contact us.