N.L. doubles auto deductible but avoids cap

THE GOVERNMENT of Newfoundland and Labrador is planning to double the deductible for pain and suffering awards but will not cap compensation for minor accident injuries.

A wide array of auto insurance changes introduced April 15 comes after years of sometimes tumultuous consultations with consumers, insurers, trial lawyers and taxi drivers and represents the most significant changes to the province’s auto insurance system in 15 years.

Amendments to the province’s Automobile Insurance Act and Insurance Companies Act would include an increase in the deductible from $2,500 to $5,000 for bodily injury claims, the introduction of new treatment protocols, a mandated insurance discount for winter tire use, implementation of underwriting guidelines for the optional use of telematics and changes to the rate setting process.

The government said it will also implement other changes to help stabilize insurance rates that do not require legislative changes such as permitting electronic proof of auto insurance. And it said it will eliminate the remaining retail tax on auto insurance in its forthcoming budget.

Among other proposed legislative changes, direct compensation for property damage would switch from motorists dealing with the at-fault driver’s insurer to their own company when they are not at fault. The government said this will facilitate faster resolution of claims and more consumer-friendly experiences.

It said claim adjustment and settlement processes for bodily injury claims will be streamlined and significant changes will be made to the rate-setting process. The proposals call for a mechanism for quick approval of rates where changes are no more than 3% in a given year and no more than 6% cumulatively over three years.

And fleet-rated risks would be brought outside the province’s Public Utility Board process, allowing taxi companies and others to negotiate their rates with insurers. Broker commission rates for taxis and limousines would be cut from 6% to 3% and a provision would be introduced for Facility Association to develop risk sharing pools for high-risk drivers.

The government said it also intends to impose a requirement that the province’s auto insurance laws be reviewed every five years.

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