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Drivers should brace for insurance crunch

Published January 19, 2010


The cost of Ontario auto insurance is continuing to rise as insurers and motorists wait for changes the government promised last November.

Twenty two insurers won approval in the final quarter of 2009 to raise their premium rates — one by a whopping average of 15 per cent starting in March.

The average of all approved changes, including one small reduction and three adjustments without an increase overall, was 4.49 per cent.

Coming on top of earlier increases approved in 2009, the Financial Services Commission of Ontario said increases will average 8.77 per cent, up from 5.59 per cent for increases approved in 2008.

Some insurers had multiple increases approved last year, or the year before, after providing motorists with an extended period of stable or declining rates.

Traders General Insurance Co. of Canada, which mainly covers members and groups and associations, topped the list of the biggest rate increases with a cumulative average increase over two years of close to 30 per cent.

Others with cumulative increases of more than 20 per cent over two years include such leading insurers as Dominion of Canada General Insurance, Economical Mutual Insurance, Pilot Insurance and Unifund Assurance.

FSCO posts each of the insurers’ approved average rate changes on its website.

About half of motorists would have seen larger increases than are posted, including most motorists in the Greater Toronto Area unless they shopped for savings with another insurer.

Dominion of Canada said its Ontario customers will have seen rates rise an average of 17 per cent between January 2009 and January 2010.

But actuary Shams Munir said Dominion’s rate changes rose an average of approximately 19 per cent, while rates in the rest of the province rose 16 per cent.

Ralph Palumbo, Ontario vice-president of the Insurance Bureau of Canada, said the main reason for continued increases is the rapid rise in the cost of accident benefit claims.

Ontario’s benefits schedule is the most generous in North America, Palumbo noted.

Finance Minister Dwight Duncan has announced a list of 40 changes to auto insurance and regulations. But insurers, lawyers and health-care providers are still waiting for details to gauge the impact on costs and injured persons.

Reimbursement for treatment and assessment of minor sprain, strain and whiplash injuries is to be capped for an interim period at $3,500, with few exceptions.

Consumers are to be given a choice of buying $50,000 of medical rehabilitation benefits — as is available in Alberta and New Brunswick — instead of the current mandatory $100,000 in Ontario.

Bob Fitzgerald, executive vice-president of Aviva Canada (owner of Traders General and Pilot),said “greater clarity on the details of the reforms is required before accurate estimates can be completed.”

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