Auto insurance reforms announced today, Nov. 9, provide better coverage and more choice for Nova Scotians while striking the right balance between fairness, stability and affordability.
"We kept our commitment to review auto insurance in Nova Scotia to ensure it meets the needs of today's families," said Graham Steele, Minister responsible for the Insurance Act. "We've developed a consumer-friendly package of reforms based on the recommendations of the independent auto insurance review and cost analysis from the Utility and Review Board."
The legislative portion of the reforms are contained in the Fair Automobile Insurance (2011) Act, which will be introduced in the House of Assembly today. New regulations will also support the changes.
These automobile reforms will:
— allow drivers involved in a collision caused by another party to deal with their own insurer to collect property damages
— ensure automobile insurers cannot increase premiums for collisions where no claim was made and the driver paid for the damage themselves, even if the driver was at fault
— help victims of automobile collisions access treatment more quickly for minor injuries
— enhance mandatory no-fault benefits including medical, rehabilitation, funeral, death and loss-of-income benefits for all drivers
— give Nova Scotians a choice to buy an optional full-tort product for minor injuries, giving them the right pursue further compensation
— ensure automobile law in Nova Scotia will be reviewed every seven years
These reforms are based on recommendation from an independent auto insurance review, which included consultation with the insurance industry, stakeholders groups and Nova Scotians. When making decisions about the reforms, the province also looked at cost analysis provide by the Utility and Review Board.
"Insurance Bureau of Canada applauds the Nova Scotia government for introducing auto insurance reforms that will better serve auto collision victims with the immediate care and treatment they need," said Bill Adams, vice-president, Atlantic, Insurance Bureau of Canada. "We are pleased to have participated in the thorough and thoughtful consultation process that brought about these changes, and look forward to working with government and industry to ensure smooth implementation."
"IBANS was pleased to participate in the review process because its collaborative nature gave stakeholders and consumers the chance to provide input into recommendations, which was positive," said Karen Slaunwhite, executive director, Insurance Brokers Association of Nova Scotia. "Any changes that benefit the consumer while maintaining fairness, stability and affordability have the full support of Nova Scotia brokers."
The introduction of new diagnostic and treatment protocols for minor injuries will deliver better care sooner to automobile collision victims. Based on Alberta's model, this will improve access to care without waiting for approval from insurance providers.
"Flexible treatment protocols and direct access to physiotherapy will help create a framework for timely, efficient access to care, which will in turn lead to faster recovery times, better patient outcomes and a better insurance system for everyone," said Dan Purcell, Nova Scotia Physiotherapy Association.
"Nova Scotia's chiropractic doctors are pleased this legislation will help us deliver more timely and effective treatment to people injured in car collisions," said Dr. Ward MacDonald, president, Council of the Nova Scotia College of Chiropractors. "We know from both our clinical experience and medical research into the treatment of whiplash, that more timely care leads to better outcomes and recoveries for patients."
Other reforms will provide help to volunteer fire departments and limit liability and define priority of pay for rental and leasing companies.
"We are pleased that these reforms recognize the costs volunteer fire departments bear when responding to automobile collisions," said Dave Burnet, president, Fire Services Association of Nova Scotia. "The levy will assist us to continue to provide quality service around the province."
These reforms are a major change in the auto insurance program in Nova Scotia. To allow the insurance industry enough time to prepare new products and processes and train staff, the reforms will be implemented in two phases with effective dates April 1, 2012 and April 1, 2013.
For more information on the fair automobile insurance reform package, visit www.gov.ns.ca/finance .