The Ontario Bar Association (OBA) has requested that Doug Downey, the head of government, appoint more arbitrators to expedite the resolution of accident benefit claims before the Licence Appeal Tribunal (LAT).
The OBA’s insurance section chair, Bronwyn Maria Martin, wrote to Downey to voice her worry about delays in accident benefit disputes involving the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule. She specifically mentioned insurance and personal injury lawyers who appeared before the LAT.
According to Martin, the dispute resolution procedure now entails filing an insured application, to which the insurer responds. The LAT began considering accident benefit issues in April 2016 through the modified Insurance Act. A LAT adjudicator will then sit over a case conference, and if a settlement cannot be achieved, the case will be transferred to another adjudicator for a hearing.
Martin noted that despite hearings being conducted in writing, “the parties frequently wait months before a case conference may take place, and if a case conference does occur, the parties can find themselves waiting extra months, or even more than a year before a hearing will take place.” In addition, the adjudicator who presided over the hearing will frequently not give a judgment for weeks or even months afterward.
She continued, “This raises a serious issue regarding access to justice.”
Martin asked the members about it, and they informed her that the “possibly most significant cause for the chronic delay” is a lack of adjudicators who can preside over hearings and conduct case conferences.
The lack of adjudicators is only worsening an already overburdened dispute resolution system, with all of the costs and uncertainties that will arise; as a result, Martin said. “While we recognize that resources of all branches of government… are facing significant demands on limited resources,” Martin said.
Martin further pointed out that Lathe T has proposed several ideas for streamlining the procedure and maintaining access to justice. For instance, the LAT now accepts electronic filing of paperwork and conducts nearly all hearings through videoconference.
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However, according to Martin, they are regrettably eclipsed by the substantial delay in the development and resolution of the conflicts themselves.
As a result, “we ask that attention be given to the appointment of a greater number of adjudicators so that [LAT] can assure prompt hearings for people before them,” she continued.