Important changes were made to the law in October of 2020 that will affect your personal injury and vehicle claim in Alberta. These changes were introduced by Finance Minister Travis Toews, through Bill 41 in the Alberta Legislature and will have significant effects on personal injury claims in Alberta. This blog will outline some of the important changes made to the law and what it can mean for you as a claimant in a personal injury claim.
What are the main changes?
1. Expert Witnesses
Before these changes, (which will start to apply to claims started after January 1, 2021) you could have as many expert witnesses (like medical professionals) as possible to help prove your injuries to the insurance company. Now, if you are claiming injuries under $100,000 dollars, you are only allowed to have one expert witness. If you are claiming for injuries worth more than $100,000, then you can have up to 3 expert witnesses. This can make it harder for you to prove your injuries to an insurance company. Insurance companies rely on medical evidence to back up what you are saying about your injuries, so being limited to 1 or 3 experts can make it harder to prove the extent of your injuries.
For example, if an accident caused you to suffer multiple injuries like a back strain, a fracture, and psychological trauma all treated by different doctors, then you might only be allowed the chance to present the medical information and evidence of one of those doctors to the at fault insurance company. This means that you will not have the chance to show the full extent of your injuries, potentially reducing the amount you can claim for your injuries.
2. Property Compensation
You can now be paid back for any property loss to your vehicle directly from your insurance company, even if you have one-way coverage. Before the change in the law, unless you had full coverage on your vehicle you would be stuck with going to the other side’s insurance company to try and get compensation for the property damage to your vehicle. Now, everyone will be able to get compensation for property damage directly through their own insurance company.
3. Prejudgment Interest
Typically, people can and often do collect interest on the money they get for their injuries. Before the changes, the interest calculated would start from the day of the accident. Because of the change to the law, you can now only get interest from the date you serve a Statement of Claim or let the other person know you are going to sue them. The interest rates on all money awards are also now much lower than the typical rate of 4% per year that a lot of compensation categories fall into.
As an example, let’s say you were in an accident in January 1st, 2020, but did not decide to hire a lawyer on January 1st, 2021, and that lawyer let the at fault party know they you intend to sue on January 1st, 2020. You would only be able to collect interest from the January 1st, 2021 date. You would also be collecting a lot less than the 4% rate. So, because of the new law, you would be losing not only on an entire year of interest from January 2020 to January 2021 but collect a much smaller amount of interest on that year.
Changes to what is considered a minor injury
There were also changes to what is considered a “minor” injury. The changes to the law mean that you can’t claim for injuries (psychological or physical) which were caused or connected to a sprain, strain, or whiplash that you got from an accident. That means what is considered “minor” in the eyes of the law is likely much broader and captures many more injuries than before.
These are important and big changes and will change personal injury claims in Alberta. If you were injured in an accident, it is important to consult with a lawyer so that you know how the law will affect your case.