New Legislation Could Result in Better Access to Justice

Dispute Irresolution
High financial rates and fraudulent claims have been concerns within the automobile insurance industry for many years. Clear discrepancies within Ontario’s Auto Insurance Dispute Resolution System have resulted in long resolution time as a result of the overwhelming number of claims the system receives.
With the current dispute resolution system in shambles, Justice Douglas Cunningham was appointed to review the current system and provide a report with any changes he deems necessary to improve the system. Justice Cunningham released his interim report in November of 2013 and his final report on February 18, 2014, proposing that the Ontario government implement a new administrative tribunal in order to expedite claims in a more quickly and cost-effective manner.
The goal of the tribunal is to resolve matters in approximately six months. Justice Cunningham proposed that mandatory mediation be eradicated and replaced with a settlement conference held before an arbitrator. He believes that this process will encourage parties to resolve their issues more harmoniously as the arbitrator will be able to shed light on the possible outcome if the parties are unable to settle and continue with arbitration.

All in Favour?
After receiving 28 recommendations in favour of the revised dispute resolution system, new legislation, called the Fighting Fraud and Reducing Automobile Insurance Rates Act, was introduced in an attempt to remove the current system from the Financial Services Commission of Ontario and establish a new administrative tribunal that would deal strictly with automobile insurance claims. This specialized agency will allow for more flexibility when dealing with claims due to its independence from government and its less formal hearing process.

What does this mean for you?
As the number of licensed paralegals is growing in Ontario, a new administrative tribunal will allow paralegals to expand their area of practice to include a field that was once dominated by lawyers. As a result, Ontarians will be provided with better access to justice as individuals will be able retain cost-effective representation. In addition, matters before the tribunal will be ensure that Ontarians will receive procedural fairness under Ontario’s Statutory Powers Procedure Act in which ensures that matters be heard in a timely fashion and follow a fair process.

Vicky Medeiros is a Paralegal student at Centennial College in Toronto studying professional communications with Omar Ha-Redeye.


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