UCP MLAs, Thank You for Protecting the Rights of Innocent Injured Albertans!
Victims’ rights advocates know all too well the old adage that there are lies, damned lies, and insurance lobby talking points: “We, the poor auto insurance companies of Alberta, are barely making ends meet. The system is broken, unsustainable. We’re losing money on the product, forcing us (as much as it pains us) to take draconian measures against auto insurance consumers, as our only other option is to leave the market. A band-aid solution to this urgent insurance crisis, caused by skyrocketing injury claims manufactured by trial lawyers, will only kick the can down the road. Immediate government regulatory intervention is needed to legislate bold, wholesale changes that will ensure a sustainable, affordable auto insurance system that will benefit Albertans for years to come.” These insurance lobby talking points are “not germane to the enterprise of describing reality,” as our blog posts over the past few months have clearly illustrated. While the insurance lobby seems to have the bureaucrats bamboozled, the truth is out there -- and more specifically here, here, here, here, here and here.
It has often been observed that the path between the offices of the lobby group Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) and Alberta’s Treasury Board and Finance (TBF) Ministry is short, yet well-worn. IBC, with a track record of persuading pliable politicos comparable to that of SNC-Lavalin, seems to have many in the Alberta government singing from its euphemistically titled “More Care, Less Court” hymn book on the issue of deforming tort law in our province. For now, UCP politicians and TBF bureaucrats continue to maintain that “no decisions have been made.” Nevertheless, there is cause for concern that innocent injured Albertans might soon be thrown under the bus so as to please powerful auto insurance lobbyists, in flagrant disregard of a Nanos survey conducted earlier this month evidencing that Albertans roundly reject insurance “reform” schemes that rip away innocent victim compensation rights to unjustly enrich guilty wrongdoers and their insurers.
This concern is founded upon a number of factors, including incessant comments by the TBF Minister in the legislature parroting insurance lobby talking points, the fact that the primary insurance lobbyists on this file have intimate past connections to the current Premier, the fact that a leaked report commissioned by TBF and penned by a former IBC actuary recommends gutting tort law while further raising auto insurance premiums, the fact that the Auto Insurance Advisory Committee’s preposterous push poll posted online this past winter clearly and falsely insinuated that Albertans must choose between existing tort rights and no-fault medical/disability benefits, and the blatantly biased composition of TBF’s hand-picked AIAC itself.
By way of background, in 2003-04, an insurance industry reaping all-time record high profits (in part due to injury claims sharply declining) falsely told the Alberta government that it was losing money due to skyrocketing injury claims and that it urgently needed government intervention to protect insurers from having to fairly compensate innocent Albertans injured by reckless drivers. Consequently, then-Finance Minister Pat Nelson (with cabinet approval) enacted a Minor Injury Regulation capping compensation for minor sprains and strains that heal relatively quickly. For many years after the implementation of this unnecessary regulation, auto insurance corporations falsely told injured Albertans that the MIR capped much more serious injuries including chronic pain, mild traumatic brain injury, PTSD and TMJ dysfunction, and accordingly enjoyed massive windfall profits for a decade at the expense of Alberta consumers, until learned justices in the Alberta courts confirmed that, as per the express intention of the legislators, the Minor Injury Regulation only applies (and, in order to be constitutionally valid, MUST only apply) to minor, fast healing strains and sprains. While this judicial affirmation rightly led to the restoration of fair compensation awards for innocent Albertans left with chronic pain and other serious injuries caused by negligent motorists and a corresponding correction in payout figures, the Alberta government’s chief insurance actuary confirms that bodily injury frequency, severity and costs per insured vehicle have in fact been dropping for the past couple of years.
Fast forward to the present, and it’s deja vu all over again as the Alberta auto insurance industry is posting massive profits (in part due to injury claims sharply declining) while again falsely pleading poverty and begging for government assistance to protect highly profitable insurers from ordinary Albertans. Contrary to tall tales spun by Ontario-based insurance lobbyists, the cyclical insurer “hard market” is in the rear view mirror and eating dust. Alberta auto insurance corporations have been laughing all the way to the bank in 2019 and 2020 and in no way shape or form require socialist marketplace meddling by the UCP government to protect them from severely normal Albertans (mostly women and children) injured by careless, stoned, drunk or distracted drivers.
UCP MLAs are well advised to distance themselves from dubious TBF/IBC talking points and instead exercise their solemn duty to stand up for vulnerable Albertans against the well-connected, amply financed auto insurance lobby’s unfair, un-Albertan demands. Our firm is heartened to have heard this month from a number of UCP caucus members who fully intend to fight hard to preserve a FAIR Alberta, where innocent Albertans left concussed or in chronic pain due to reckless drivers retain their full legal rights to fair pain and suffering compensation. To those MLAs, a sincere thanks from McCourt Law Offices and our clients.