The number of car accidents province-wide has been decreasing, yet insurance rates keep going up, according to a recent report from Ontario’s auto insurance adviser, David Marshall.
In the first three months of 2017, costs increased by an average of 1.24 per cent, says the Financial Services Commission of Ontario. This, despite the Liberal government having promised in 2013 a 15 per cent rate cut within two years.
Premier Kathleen Wynne reportedly called the missed deadline a “stretch goal”.
Ontarians pay, on average, about $1,450 in auto insurance premiums per person – about $500 more than any other parts of Canada. Reducing the costs to match the Canadian average would save Ontario drivers about $4 billion per year.
However, Marshall wrote that the blame doesn’t belong to high insurance company profits, claimants, or lawyers.
Instead, about one-third of benefit costs are paid to competing expert opinions, legal fees, and insurer costs to defend claims, instead of going to treatment. The report advocated an improvement of medical care for the injured and making legal fees more transparent.
“The main cause is that the system does not promote a timely, conflict-free means of deciding what care is needed, and providing it to accident victims,” he wrote.
For its part, the government has responded by forbidding minor at-fault accidents from hiking premiums, brought in a winter tire discount, and lowered the maximum interest rate an insurer is allowed to charge for auto premiums.
Markham-based Tim Curry, senior vice president of Mclean Hallmark Insurance Group Limited maintains that “there really was no logic” to the government goal of 2013.
“If they took the full fifteen percent, there would have been insurance companies in financial jeopardy.”
Curry says the main reason why rates are so high, is “because we have the most comprehensive benefits in North America, and when you have the best, you end up paying the most for it.”
One example he cites of a costly program that is uncommon outside the province is paid leave for family members, to look after an injured party. “People buy two million dollars of coverage, and you will not see that kind of coverage elsewhere in North America.”
For the insurance rates to go down, he says, accident benefits would need to decrease.
“I believe the government and insurance industry has been working hard on that, and it’s not something that can turn on a dime,” Curry says.