On August 26, 2015, the Ontario government enacted legislation reducing accident benefits available to individuals injured in auto crashes. Ontario Regulation 251/15 will affect claims arising out of accidents that occur on or after June 1, 2016.
Catastrophically Impaired Victims
Many of the changes target the most seriously injured accident victims – those who are catastrophically impaired. The new rules narrow the definition of catastrophic impairment and introduce detailed criteria that must be met in order to meet the definition of catastrophic impairment. A description of these criteria is described below.
- Traumatic brain injuries: For adults, the Glasgow Coma Scale will be replaced by the Extended Glasgow Outcome Scale as the clinical assessment tool to determine the extent of a brain injury. For children under age 18, the King’s Outcome Scale for Childhood Head Injury will be clinical assessment tool.
- Paraplegia and quadriplegia: Victims with spinal cord injuries will be “graded” using the American Spinal Injury Association Classification system (also known as the ASIA Impairment Scale) and must meet a certain classification grade to be deemed paraplegic or quadriplegic.
- Severe impairment of ambulatory mobility: A mobility test using the Spinal Cord Independence Measure will be conducted to determine whether an accident victim has sustained a severe and permanent alteration of their legs and leg functions.
- Loss of vision of both eyes: A 20/200 visual acuity threshold (legal blindness) and specific field of vision criteria will be used in determining whether there is a loss of vision in both eyes.
In addition to the fundamental overhaul of the definition of catastrophic impairment, the legislation cuts in half the amount of medical and rehabilitation benefits and attendant care benefits available to catastrophically impaired victims. These benefits have been slashed from $2 million to $1 million.
The entitlement to non-earner benefits has also been decreased for catastrophically impaired individuals, so that they are now only available for two years for those who qualify.
Non-Catastrophically Impaired Victims
Benefits to accident victims, who are not catastrophically impaired, have also been dramatically reduced. Medical and rehabilitation benefits of $50,000 and attendant care benefits of $36,000 have been cut to $65,000. As well, the time frame in which an injured person is entitled to receive medical and rehabilitation benefits has been shortened from ten years to five years.
Similarly to those who are catastrophically impaired, non-earners benefits are only available to an injured person for two years, if the injured person qualifies.