Bill 41: The Insurance (Enhancing Driver Affordability and Care) Amendment Act Bill 41 was first introduced in the Alberta Legislature on October 29, 2020 by Finance Minister Travis Toews. Bill 41 would amend the Insurance Act in a number of significant ways. At first reading, Mr. Toews indicated that the Bill proposes the introduction of direct compensation for property damage, changes to pre-judgement interest payable in bodily injury claims and limitations on the number of experts that can be used in costly bodily injury claims. As of November 4, 2020, the Bill had passed first reading and the second reading was underway. 1. Expert Witnesses Bill 41 would limit the number of expert witnesses in motor vehicle damages proceedings, depending on the claim value. In a proceeding where the motor vehicle injury damages are $100,000 or more, a party may tender a maximum of three experts with a limit of one report per expert. If the claim for motor vehicle injury damages is less than $100,000, a party may tender only one expert and one report. The limitations proposed are subject to a number of exceptions: The number of experts and the corresponding number of expert reports can exceed the proposed limits if all parties consent. The limit will not apply to evidence or reports from a joint expert that was consented to by all parties. The limit will not apply if the court grants additional experts or additional reports, upon application of one of the parties. Courts retain discretion to appoint their own experts on disputed matters. These amendments would apply to every motor vehicle injury proceeding commenced on or after January 1, 2021. 2. Direct Compensation for Property Damage The amendments proposed in Bill 41 would also impact compensation for damage to automobiles in motor vehicle collisions. The scheme would allow an insured party to recover for damages to their automobile, contents, or loss of use caused by an at-fault driver directly from their insurer. The insured party would no longer be required to contact the third party’s insurer for compensation. The insured party would be prohibited from initiating a claim against anyone other than their insurer, except where permitted by the regulations. 3. Prejudgment Interest Bill 41 would prevent awarding prejudgment interest in an action for loss or damage from a motor vehicle injury prior to the earlier of: i) the statement of claim being served on the defendant or ii) written notice of the plaintiff’s intention to make a claim for loss or damage is provided to the defendant’s insurer. Bill 41 would also affect the calculation of interest for non-pecuniary damages. The interest rate would be calculated in the same manner as interest awarded for pecuniary damages. Orders in Council In addition to the proposed amendments to the Insurance Act, the provincial government released three new Orders in Council on October 30, 2020 to amend three main regulatory regimes. All of the below amendments take effect on November 1, 2020. 1. Minor Injury Regulation The Minor Injury Regulation was amended pursuant to Order in Council 333/2020. The OC made the following amendments: Dentists are added to the definition of “certified examiners” Dentists acting as certified examiners are only certified to assess a claimant regarding an injury to the temporomandibular joint that does not involve damage to the bone, teeth or cartilage or is not a minor injury The definition of “minor injury” was expanded to include any clinically associated sequelae of the sprain, strain or WAD injury, whether physical or psychological in nature 2. Diagnostic and Treatment Protocols Regulation The Diagnostic and Treatment Protocols Regulation was amended pursuant to Order in Council 332/2020. The OC made the following amendments: Expanding the scope of “adjunct therapy” to include therapy provided by a dentist, occupational therapist and psychologist Treatments by dentists, occupational therapists or psychologists do not count toward the number of total physical therapy, chiropractic and adjunct therapy visits permitted under sections 9(2) or 9(5) Limiting the expenses payable for adjunct therapy provided by a dentist, occupational therapist or psychologist to $1,000 Amending section 16(2) to require health care practitioners to reassess sprains and strains as well as WAD I or WAD II injuries and allowing health care practitioners to authorize visits to injury management consultants for those persons with sprains and strains 3. Automobile Accident Insurance Benefits Regulation (“AAIB”) The AAIB was amended pursuant to Order in Council 331/2020. The OC increases various expense limits as follows: Adds medically necessary equipment, home modifications or vehicle modifications to the list of reasonable expenses incurred under Subsection 1 – Medical Payments Increasing expense limits on chiropractic services from $750 to $1,000 Increasing expense limits on massage therapy and acupuncture services from $250 to $350 Increasing funeral expenses from $5,000 to $6,150 Increasing grief counselling expenses from $400 to $500 Increasing weekly disability benefits from $400 per week to $600 per week and increasing the length of disability benefits from 26 weeks to 104 weeks Increasing limits on psychological, physical therapy and occupational therapy services from $600 to $750 Report by the Automobile Insurance Advisory Committee Along with the changes to the Insurance Act and corresponding regulations, the Government of Alberta released the Automobile Insurance Advisory Committee’s Report on Fundamental Reform of the Alberta Automobile Insurance Compensation System (the “Report”) on October 29, 2020. The Report was created to respond to increasing automobile insurance premiums in Alberta and to provide long-term sustainability to the insurance regime. The full Report is 536 pages in length and provides an overview of consultations with stakeholders, recommendations for the future of the Alberta insurance system, and legal and medical considerations. The most notable aspect of the Report is the recommendation for a no-fault model in which enhanced care programs can be developed for a range of accident injuries. The Committee recommended a pure no-fault care model to compensate and provide Section B benefits to those injured in motor vehicle accidents without needing to prove fault. The no-fault scheme would also apply to property damage resulting from motor vehicle collisions. The Government of Alberta provided the following notes regarding the Report: The cost of auto insurance for Alberta drivers is the third highest in Canada Albertans should expect to see a break in steep increases to their premiums or potential savings in the coming months Further engagement on the future of Alberta’s auto insurance system will be rolled out over the coming fall and winter months The cost of insurance should decrease by an average of $120 per year The Report significantly influenced the development of the amendments proposed in Bill 41. The Report will be used alongside further consultations with stakeholders to continue reforming Alberta’s auto insurance scheme. Disclaimer: This article is to be used for educational and non-commercial purposes only. Parlee McLaws LLP does not intend for this article to be a source of legal advice. Please seek the advice of a lawyer before choosing to act on any of the information contained in this article.