Auto insurance overhaul: UCP to expand minor injury list, ponder no-fault system

By Catherine Griwkowsky October 30, 2020

The UCP is capturing more injuries under the auto insurance system’s minor injuries compensation cap and allowing more health professionals to diagnose and treat those injuries.

Those are among the changes proposed in Bill 41, Insurance (Enhancing Driver Affordability and Care) Amendment Act, introduced by Finance Minister Travis Toews on Thursday.

Expanding the definition of a minor traffic injury was one of the recommendations made by the three-member Automobile Insurance Advisory Committee — but its main recommendation, a move to a no-fault system, won’t happen without more consultation.

An as-yet-unannounced MLA-led committee will study the matter over the fall and winter.

While soft tissue injuries — sprains, strains and whiplash — are currently considered minor injuries, the definition will be expanded to include “conditions arising” from those injuries.

According to the NDP, that means concussions would be lumped in with other less serious injuries.

“Defining a head injury with effects of memory loss, troubles concentrating, and insomnia as minor does not match the lived experience of Albertans,” said the New Democrats’ Service Alberta critic Jon Carson. “But it does satisfy the wishes of already profitable insurance companies.”

The number of traffic accident victims with concussion injuries has increased by 500 per cent since 2011, according to the advisory committee’s report. The committee suggested this increase was due to people claiming the $5,296 award under the Minor Injury Regulation and using the payout for things other than medical treatments.

“Lump sum payments for pain and suffering” are subject to “misuse and abuse,” they wrote.

Under the current system, both drivers and insurance companies “have been paying the consequences of the previous government’s ill-thought-out rate cap,” Toews said.

Auto insurance rates have soared since the UCP lifted the NDP’s cap on rate hikes last year, but the government said Bill 41 means Albertans should “expect to see a break from steep increases to their premiums” in the coming months.

Other changes include: