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Letter: Auto insurance reforms should be about people not things

What should I do if I'm in a car accident and the other person has no insurance?
The Public Utilities Board is holding hearings into Newfoundland and Labrador's auto insurance system. - Contributed

It’s time to have an open discussion about what the insurance industry is proposing in this province.

The government’s recently announced auto-insurance review provides an opportunity to bring positive changes to ensure a fair, predictable and affordable product for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. The government sets the framework under which insurance companies operate. At Intact, we are eager to support Service NL and the Public Utilities Board in achieving reforms that will return automobile insurance to long-term sustainability to better serve the residents of the province.

It is simply unacceptable that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are paying some of the highest premiums in the country. There are solutions to this problem. Over the past decade, our industry has worked with the governments of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to introduce policies that have helped reduce insurance rates over time. In fact, the cost of auto insurance in Nova Scotia is now one third less than it is in Newfoundland and Labrador.

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A recent public opinion study, conducted by Abacus, shows that 62 per cent of people in N.L. believe the top focus of the reforms should be to create a stable and predictable auto-insurance market to prevent big premium increases in the future. Intact recently published a plan to drive predictable and affordable insurance costs. Here’s a summary of our main proposals:

• Implementing a cap on minor injuries: a big driver of higher insurance cost in this province is all the minor injuries such as a sprain that end up costing $40,000 in damages. By comparison, in Alberta, this cost is capped at $5,000. So implementing a cap on minor injury settlements of $5,000 would help stabilize costs. This would not apply to incidents that result in a serious impairment, nor would it remove the right for people to sue in the province.

• Provide mandatory automatic compensation if you’re injured in a car accident: another added cost in the system is the time and delays accident victims have to endure before getting the care they need. By introducing mandatory accident benefits — which provide automatic compensation, regardless of fault, if you, your passengers, or pedestrians suffer injury in an auto accident — and pre-approved treatment programs, we can help get people care faster and reduce cost.

• More competition: as the largest insurer in this province, we want to see more competition. By creating an environment that encourages innovation and drives competition, the government would help other insurers enter the market and provide more innovative products, in the end, benefitting customers.

Intact believes that these reforms will help to achieve everyone’s goal of providing an insurance system that will work better for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. Intact has a significant footprint across the province. We employ 237 people and operate in over 25 office locations with three well-known brands: Anthony Insurance, Intact Insurance and Macdonald Chisholm Trask Insurance.

We insure 1 in 4 people in this province to help protect what matters most: their homes, cars and businesses. We look forward to having an open conversation with all those involved in the reform process.

Natalie Higgins

Senior Vice President, Atlantic Canada, Intact

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