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Travel insurance: Know what you’re buying to avoid a vacation disaster

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

By Eric Foss, Manmeet Ahluwalia, CBC News

Robin Ingle knows a thing or two about travel insurance — his parents opened their family travel insurance business in 1946 — and he says travellers need to be very cautious about the type of coverage they’re buying before they head out of the country.

“You have to make sure that the product you buy is appropriate,” says Ingle, CEO of Ingle International.

“You have to make sure that the product you buy is appropriate,” he adds. “Standard travel insurance products, for example, will not cover you for mountain climbing; will not cover you for diving … so you have to be aware that if you have a special need or you are going to a different kind of destination, participating in different activities, you have to make sure the product you have will actually service you.”

He says there’s often confusion and anxiety when travellers are searching for the right coverage. The industry veteran believes the travel insurance business needs to be more transparent, but he also emphasizes the need for clients and would be travellers to do their homework and make sure the policies they are purchasing actually provide the coverage needed.

Making sure you’re covered for the type of activities you plan to do while out of the country comes down to understanding the details of your coverage plan. (Eric Foss/CBC News)

“Insurance companies and financial institutions don’t communicate well with consumers and they have to do a better job. But consumers also roll back their eyes and get a little bit dizzy when they have to look at wording within policies or contracts, and they have to be better consumers of financial products.”

The travel insurance industry is one of the highest-paying claims groups within the insurance industry, according to Ingle, with denied claims representing 2 to 3 per cent of active policies. Making sure you’re covered for the type of activities you plan to do while out of the country comes down to understanding the details of your coverage plan.

Thinking of buying travel insurance?  Have you:

  • Researched what’s out there, or are you sticking to the first plan you came across?
  • Spoken with your doctor, or are you guessing which conditions you are being treated for?
  • Called a licensed agent, or are you rushing to complete the application before you board the plane?
  • Read the fine print, or are you making assumptions about what is and isn’t covered?
  • Checked out the policy glossary, or are you relying on your friend’s interpretation of a confusing term?
  • Enquired about deductibles, or are you prepared to pay a lower cost now and a higher premium later?
  • Asked questions, questions, and more questions, or are you concerned you’ll be a bother?

Preventing parking lot theft

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

Those shopping bag full of pricey electronics and fancy jewelry that are sitting in your backseat will no doubt make some loved ones happy this holiday season, but they could also be irresistible to thieves.

As the shopping season is in full swing, many people are flocking to malls and big box stores to get their lists checked off. However, this is also the season when thieves become more active, often targeting shoppers who are carrying more cash and presents.

“We want to believe the holidays are filled with kindness, peace and joy, but there are people out there haunting parking lots in hopes of taking advantage of the season,” said Mark Desrochers, president, personal lines at The Hanover in a statement.

“Because a car break-in can be traumatic and leave you feeling vulnerable, and also bring with it car repair and replacement costs, we thought it was important to remind shoppers to be prepared before you hit the stores. We want to help to ensure you can enjoy the spirit of the holiday, without it being tainted by theft.”

To be safer in parking lots and garages during the holidays and year-around, The Hanover recommends the following tips:

  • Choose Your Spot Carefully — Do not park close to bushes, trees, walls, large vehicles, or any other obstruction that may provide a cover for criminals. At night, park in well-lit areas, ideally where others are coming and going.
  • Keep Your Valuables Out of Sight — Hide or remove anything valuable from the vehicle. Tablets, laptops, smart phones and navigational systems are popular targets for car burglars. They are easy to steal and conceal. If possible, leave them at home — or at least — hide them out of sight. If you accumulate shopping bags during the trip, store them in a locked trunk.
  • Lock-up — All doors should be locked and all windows should be shut tight. Don’t forget to lock the trunk if it doesn’t lock automatically when you lock your doors. When returning to your vehicle, lock your doors immediately upon entering.
  • Use Alarms — Set your car alarm before leaving your vehicle. If you do not have one, consider having one installed. Alarm stickers and decals are great visible deterrents. Others include steering-wheel locks and brake-pedal locks.  Even carrying simple items like a whistle, can be helpful to draw attention and ward off thieves.
  • Be Alert — Always be aware of your surroundings, when parking and returning to your vehicle. Keep your keys in hand when returning so you can enter your vehicle quickly. It is always a good idea to check your back seat before entering your vehicle to be sure no one hiding inside.

Keep Your Home Safe From Thieves This Holiday Season

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

There are many important steps we can take to keep our home safe from break-ins over the holidays, as we travel and bring new gifts home. Most break-ins are opportunistic burglaries, and Christmas is the time when many thieves are looking for the insecure home.

You can help prevent thieves targeting your home by carrying out a few simple common sense measures.

Always lock all outside doors and windows when you go out, including garage windows and doors, especially if the garage has an internal door leading to the main house. Lock your garden tools and ladders away and always keep your house keys in a safe place. Burglars know to look under a mat, pull the string and key through the letter box, or move the large stone near the front/back door.

When heading out for the evening, put a light on, put the radio or TV on and leave a small gap in the curtains so that a light can be seen.

If you are going away for a longer time, use timers to control Christmas lights and indoor lamps, and ask a neighbour to take in your mail and newspapers and clear your walks and driveway of snow when needed. Consider having a trusted person spend some time inside your house each day. If you leave a car in the driveway, consider having that same person move it periodically to make it appear as if its being used.

Turn your telephone ringer off and don’t leave outgoing phone or email messages to indicate that you are away. Be careful of posting information about your travel plans or expensive gifts on social media.

Do not display your Christmas tree & gifts in a window visible from the street. Criminals may be tempted to smash the window to steal packages or plan a break-in. After Christmas, do not leave empty gift boxes by the garbage or put them our for curbside recycling. This is an advertisement for thieves. Collapse the boxes, cut them up to conceal the items or take them directly to your community recycling depot.

Review your home insurance plan, and be aware that there are limits for how long your home can be left empty for coverage to remain valid.

Insurance agents are encouraged to review these tips with their clients, as well as to be aware of the limitations of their client’s insurance policies.


New Motor Vehicle Act Regulation in Effect January 1, 2015

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

“Effective January 1, 2015 B.C.’s Slow Down and Move Over legislation will be amended to include all vehicles that display a flashing red, blue or yellow light. The change was made to include highway maintenance workers, utility workers, land surveyors, animal control workers and garbage collectors, reducing the risk of them being struck by passing vehicles. The penalty will remain the same, a violation will cost $173 and 3 penalty points.” ~ DriveSmartBC

Press Release:

VICTORIA – The B.C. government is making a Motor Vehicle Act regulation change to simplify the Slow Down Move Over rule, making it safer for roadside workers.

Currently, the Slow Down Move Over regulation requires drivers to reduce speed and, if on a multi-lane road, move over to another lane when passing stopped vehicles with a flashing light, which are considered “official vehicles”. These include: police, fire, ambulance, tow trucks, Commercial Vehicle Safety Enforcement vehicles, park rangers and conservation officers.

Stakeholders, including the BC Road Builders and Heavy Construction Association, raised concerns that the current regulation does not protect all roadside workers. For example, maintenance workers are frequently required to stop on the side of the road for inspections or highway maintenance. These workers are subject to an equal or higher risk than many of the workers covered under the current regulations.

The new regulatory amendment will simplify the Slow Down Move Over requirement so that it includes all vehicles displaying a flashing red, blue or yellow light. This will make it easier for drivers to know the rules of the road, as they will no longer have to check to see if the flashing light is on an “official vehicle”.

The amendment will improve safety for all roadside workers, including highway maintenance workers, utility workers, land surveyors, animal control workers and garbage collectors, reducing the risk of them being struck by passing vehicles. The amendment will come into force on Jan. 1, 2015.

Drivers must slow their speed to 70km/h when in an 80km/h or over zone, and 40km/h when in an under 80km/h zone. If travelling on a multi-lane road, the driver must move into another lane to pass where safe to do so. Failing to adjust your speed appropriately or failing to move over can result in a $173 ticket and three penalty points.

Quote:

Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Todd Stone:

“We are committed to better protecting roadside workers. That’s why we are simplifying the current rule. It means that drivers will no longer have to figure out what flashing light to pay attention to – it will now be easy to know the rules of the road. Drivers will now be required to slow down and move over for all vehicles with a flashing light.”

Media Contact:

Government Communications and Public Engagement
Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure
250 356-8241

Cst. Tim Schewe (Ret.) runs DriveSmartBC, a community web site about traffic safety in British Columbia. For 25 years he was an officer with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, including five years on general duty, 20 in traffic and 10 as a collision analyst responsible of conducting technical investigations of collisions. He retired from policing in 2006 but continues to be active in traffic safety through the DriveSmartBC web site, teaching seminars and contributing content to newspapers and web sites.


Nova Scotia: Province claims it’s entitled to insurance money

Friday, December 12th, 2014

By CBC News

A Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice has reserved his decision in a case that has pitted the provincial government against the family of a young woman with a catastrophic brain injury.

Joellan Huntley was injured in a traffic accident in April 1996 which left her unable to talk or walk. She has to be fed through a tube.

The accident was caused when a driver swerved to avoid a dog on the road. The insurance companies for both the car owner and the dog owner settled with Huntley’s family for almost $1.5 million.

When the province learned of the settlement, it launched legal action to claw back the money.

“It’s been a long battle from the start,” said Huntley’s father, Byron, outside court. “Well, not a battle, you know, it’s always hanging over you, this same thing all the time.”

In court Wednesday, Justice James Chipman grilled the lawyer for the province. He questioned why anyone in the situation faced by the Huntleys would bother to fight for an insurance settlement, only to have it clawed back.

“Why would anyone catastrophically injured even hire a lawyer?,” Justice Chipman asked.

“It just seems rather perverse, doesn’t it?”

Extra care for Joellan

The family has been using the settlement money to obtain extra care beyond the basics provided by the Kings Regional Rehabilitation Centre where she’s been living since the year after her accident.

“She’s a lot better now, a lot brighter,” said her mother, Louise Misner. “And the last time she had bronchitis, she recovered in two weeks, without having to go into the hospital because she’s having this therapy.”

Huntley family lawyer Ray Wagner said the issues in this case go beyond Joellan and her family.

“It`s not a large number of people that are in these circumstances, but they are all suffering the same way in terms of their needs, the extra needs for transportation, for instance, to be able to go home and visit their families, to be able to get things like ramps built around the homes so it makes them easier to access their families,” Wagner said.

Justice Chipman is giving Wagner and the lawyer for the province until Jan. 9 to supply any extra documents to support their arguments. He’s promising a written decision as soon as possible after that.

Source: CBC News


“The Use Of An Interpreter, On Its Own, Is Irrelevant To The Issue Of Credibility”

Friday, December 5th, 2014

Today’s guest post comes from B.C. injury claims lawyer Erik Magraken

Reasons for judgment were released today by the BC Supreme Court addressing whether a witness who has a good understanding of English should have their credibility negatively assessed where they choose to testify trough an interpreter.  In short, the Court held that this factor alone is irrelevant in assessing credibility.

In today’s case (Kim v. Khaw) the Plaintiff was injured in a vehicle collision that the Defendant was responsible for.  The Plaintiff sued for damages and testified using a translator.   The Plaintiff had a good understanding of English and as a result the Defendant argued the Plaintiff’s credibility should be negatively impacted by using the buffer provided by a translator.   Madam Justice Sharma disagreed and in doing so provided the following reasons:

[100] Mr. Kim’s comprehension of English was good; therefore, does his decision to use an interpreter impact his credibility?

[101] There is no doubt that hearing evidence through the filter of an interpreter can be challenging: Wang v. Hu, 2003 BCSC 552 at para. 24; R. v. A.F., 2010 ONSC 5824 at para. 87. The court must be alive to the fact that the impact or nuance of interpreted testimony may be “lost in translation”, especially during cross-examination. For example, inconsistencies in explanations or expressions may be the inevitable result of there being no exact translation, or perhaps many translations, for an English word, phrase or concept in the foreign language.

[102] It is unfortunate, but inescapable, that hearing evidence through an interpreter may make it more difficult to consider and weigh that evidence. Difficulty, however, cannot be a bar to fairness; fairness is the measure against which the court must gauge whether the fact that evidence was given via an interpreter is relevant to or affects the credibility of that witness’ testimony.

[103] Mr. Kim felt more comfortable testifying in Korean. A major issue in this case is whether his mental status has been detrimentally affected by the Accident. This required him to discuss and reveal highly personal and emotional information, including his intimate relationship with his wife and his interactions with his children. He testified about matters that all doctors accepted he felt enormous shame and guilt about. I find it reasonable and understandable that he would choose to testify in his native language even if he does understand English well. This is especially true because he is not just a witness, but a party, in the case.

[104] The comfort of one’s native language, even when English is understood, is surely a factor for many witnesses who testify via an interpreter. That comfort would be seriously eroded if, without reasonable justification, a court were to take into account a witness’ preference for interpretation when weighing their evidence or assessing their credibility. It is my view that the use of an interpreter, on its own, is irrelevant to the issue of credibility. To find otherwise could unfairly prejudice participants in the trial process who used interpreters and could undermine public confidence in the trial process. In my view, there must be some evidence, or a reasonable inference that can be drawn from evidence, that the witness’ use of the interpreter was not necessary for them to fairly participate in the trial, but rather was a deliberate intent to gain some advantage: Mee Hoi Bros. Co. v. Borving Investments (Canada) Ltd., 2014 BCSC 1710 at para. 13 and 21 [Borving].

[105] In this case, Mr. Kim demonstrated that he does understand spoken and written English, and that he speaks English (although, from the very little I heard, with a heavy accent and somewhat haltingly). I understood the defendants to rely on Mr. Kim’s facility with English as another reason the court should not rely on his testimony. I find that to be irrelevant to the weight I attach to his evidence. In this case, the defendants’ counsel was able to conduct a vigorous and effective cross-examination of the plaintiff despite the interpretation.

[106] I do not discount the possibility that counsel may want to argue that the use of an interpreter, where one was not absolutely necessary, caused the trial to be longer which should be recognized in a costs award, but that issue is entirely different from credibility.


Driving Concerns: Will my insurance rates increase if a friend crashes my car?

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

By Jason Tchir | The Globe and Mail

While I was away on a holiday in Turkey, a friend borrowed my car and was involved in an accident. She was looking after my cats and I had asked her to start the car occasionally so the battery wouldn’t run down. She was given a ticket for careless driving. There were three cars involved altogether. The police report does not state whether the other cars were damaged. I’m reluctant to make a claim with my insurance company because it will increase my insurance rates drastically. My plan is to get the car repaired on my own and have her pay for the cost. Is there a possibility that her insurance company would pay the claim? – Judy, Toronto

Unless your friend bought special coverage before taking your car on a joyride, her insurance company won’t pay for your repairs, says the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

In Ontario, if she’d bought OPCF 27, her insurance policy would cover damage to a borrowed or rented vehicle. But, for it to work, you’d need a written contract saying you were lending your car to her.

“Normally, you get this if you rent a lot of vehicles – but the agreement has to be in writing,” says IBC Ontario spokesman Pete Karageorgos. “Otherwise, anyone who borrows your vehicle, borrows your insurance policy.”

Report it, or not?

Normally, your insurance coverage automatically extends to anyone who borrows your vehicle. If they get in an accident, it’s your insurance – not theirs – that covers any damage. It’s good news because it means your insurance company, and not you, is on the hook if your friend borrows your car and hits something – or someone.

But if you don’t report the accident to your insurance company, you might lose that coverage, Karageorgos says.

“It would be a good idea to report it,” he says. “If you don’t, you’d be breaking your insurance policy and they’d have grounds for not covering you if somebody decides to sue you down the road.”

Section 1.4.4 of the Ontario Automobile Policy says you must tell your insurance company within seven days of an accident if you’re making a claim – or if the accident has to be reported to police under the Highway Traffic Act (HTA).

The HTA says accidents have to be reported to police if damage to all vehicles and property is over $1,000, if there’s personal injury, if it’s a hit-and-run or if there’s suspicion that any of the drivers is impaired by drugs or alcohol.

“If somebody’s claiming personal injury they have two years to make a claim – they could sue the driver, or you, or both of you,” he says. “If you’ve reported it, your insurance company will protect you.”

If your friend gave your insurance information to the other drivers and they’re making claims, they’ll pass on that information to their insurance companies.

“It’s likely that your insurance company will find out about it even if you don’t report it,” Karageorgos says.

Will your rates go up?

In Ontario, if you’re found less than 25 per cent at fault in an accident, your rates will not increase. If the fault is any higher, they’ll go up – even if there was no damage. And there’s no formula for how high they’ll go, Karageorgos says.

“Your insurance company might have a policy where they’ll forgive the first at-fault accident,” he says.

One potential way to avoid a massive rate hike? Tell your insurance company that your friend stole your car, Karageorgos says. You’d still see a rate increase because you’re reporting a theft, but it wouldn’t be as high – and the insurance company would pay for the damages. Then, the company would go after your (former) friend for the money.

“You’d have to report your friend to the police,” he says. “I once had a case where a teenager crashed the car into the garage door and his parents had him charged with car theft – the insurance company went after him for the damages.”


Fraud conviction made in Toronto-based staged collision ring

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

TORONTO, Dec. 1, 2014 /CNW/ – An Ontario Judge has handed down a strong sentence to a “directing mind of several clinics” involved in a staged collision ring. Project Whiplash, a Toronto Police Services fraud investigation, supported by Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC), member insurance companies and Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO), has cost the Ontario public more than $4 million in fraudulent claims.

“We applaud this appropriate sentence,” said Rick Dubin, Vice-President, Investigative Services, IBC. “It is significant and will hopefully act as a strong deterrent for others considering this type of illegal conduct. It makes it clear that the courts are taking these crimes more seriously by imposing harsher penalties and restitution.”*

The ring submitted auto insurance claims that they purported to have been signed or authorized by severalOntarioregistered health practitioners, including five chiropractors, a massage therapist and a kinesiologist, when in fact they had not been. The fraudsters also staged several auto collisions, made accident reports to police and filed false injury claims, which resulted in payments for medical treatments that were never provided and income replacement benefits based on false employment submissions.

Vishnukanthan Sabapathy of Markham, Ont., pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud over $5,000 for his involvement in false billings from health clinics and for making false insurance claims. He was sentenced to two years less a day in jail and ordered to pay $1.3 million in restitution for his role in the scam (he paid$500,000 up front and was ordered to pay $800,000 more).

“Insurance crime is big business that siphons dollars away from our health care system, ties up emergency services and our courts and drives up insurance premiums,” said Dubin. “Ontario auto insurance fraud adds $200 to $300 to everyone’s premium. When they cheat, we all pay.”

If you suspect or have information about a case of insurance fraud, contact IBC’s anonymous TIPS Line (1-877-IBC-TIPS) or Crime Stoppers (1-800-222-TIPS).

*As this matter is before the courts, there will be no further comment from IBC.