With Vid: Windsor victim urges Ontario to protect crash benefits



Rehab key to recovery: Victim





WINDSOR, Ont. — Cutting benefits to people who suffer catastrophic injuries in automobile accidents will hinder their ability to return to full and active lives, a brain injury survivor said Wednesday.

Katherine Worotny told a provincial committee hearing in Windsor on ways to reduce the cost of auto insurance that she couldn’t have come as far as she has without the programs she accessed through her coverage.

Worotny suffered a closed head injury and spent six weeks in a coma after a 1993 car accident in Tecumseh.

A teacher before she was hit by a driver who ran a red light at E.C. Row and Lesperance Road, Worotny said she was “never able to return to my career and now I’m a volunteer with a number of agencies, all of which deal with people who have had similar problems.

“I also speak to student groups about drinking, driving and the use of seatbelts, but had it not been for the counselling, medical care and physiotherapy I received, and am still receiving, I wouldn’t be able to do any of that.”

Worotny spent eight years in various rehabilitation programs relearning basic life skills and underwent psychological counselling to deal with anger issues and the loss of her career.

Even 19 years after the accident, Worotny still attends physical therapy sessions designed to build up the strength in one knee and leg which were shattered in the accident.

“I’m an example of a person who can now have a productive life and (recent) changes to the system may make it harder for people to access the benefits, therapy, counselling and rehab services they desperately need,” said Worotny.

The provincial standing committee on finance and economic affairs, which also heard from delegations in Brampton and Toronto this week, is expected to make recommendations later this year.

MPP Teresa Piruzza (L — Windsor West), a member of the committee, said proposals involving catastrophic injuries include setting out definitions of such injuries and the level of benefits people would be entitled to under any changes.

“We don’t want to deny benefits to people who need them but we need to agree on the determining factors for such situations,” said Piruzza. “We have a generous system compared to most other jurisdictions but we have to be able to reconcile those benefits with the level of premiums.”

MPP Taras Natyshak (NDP — Essex), a fellow committee member, said that reductions in benefits are rarely accompanied by an equal reduction in premiums.

“Insurer liability decreases but premiums don’t and that’s troubling,” said Natyshak. “And decreasing benefits for those suffering catastrophic injury would, in many cases, prevent many people from resuming productive lives.”

The committee is also looking at the insurance industry practice of charging different rates based on where a driver lives, rather than solely on their driving record.

“The use of territories to determine rates is discriminatory in the extreme,” said Victoria Cross, a Windsor lawyer who made a presentation to the committee. “No matter how you dress that up, it is redlining by another name and it provides a means by which through geographical or territorial discrimination against neighbourhoods and communities, racial discrimination can be given an unholy ghost life.”

MPP Bob Bailey (PC — Sarnia-Lambton) said setting rates by territory, particularly in the Greater Toronto Area, is a way of addressing the high incidence of auto insurance fraud in that region.

Restricting the use of such measures would shift higher rates onto drivers elsewhere in the province where insurance fraud isn’t as large an issue.

Former Manitoba premier Howard Pawley, who helped establish that province’s public insurance plans 40 years ago, spoke in favour of establishing a similar plan in Ontario, even though that is not part of the committee’s mandate.

“A public plan does not only deliver lower premiums, it also provides every motive for the province to reduce claims and improve driver safety and establish anti-theft and fraud initiatives,” said Pawley. “Last year, the plans paid out a dividend to drivers that amounted to a 6.8 per cent reduction in their premium rates.”

The committee is also studying anti-fraud initiatives as a way of curbing premium increases.

© Copyright (c) The Windsor Star




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