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Travel Insurance: Travelling Outside Canada

Monday, August 31st, 2015

By Robert K Stephen, The Winsdor Square

(TORONTO, ON) – If you really wish to become a penniless pensioner just fall ill abroad without any travel insurance.

The OHIP website advises Ontario residents travelling abroad that it will only offer limited reimbursement for foreign medical costs and strongly advises against out of Canada travel unless it is backed up by private out of country medical coverage. It states you’ll be covered for unexpected conditions that arise out of Canada.

In other words, if there is even a whisper of health issues before you leave Canada, that flare up outside of Canada, you aren’t covered.

So, on a trip to Detroit for dinner you suffer a stroke or heart attack. Sure you only intended to eat dinner and return to nearby Windsor. Or, perhaps, you just wanted to shop at some discount outlet in Michigan for a few hours. While I have no complaints with US health care, if you have no insurance coverage rest assured it is expensive.

As an air ambulance flight from Istanbul to Toronto will cost you $160,000, you get an idea how quickly you can become a penniless pensioner.

Is a good steak and martini in Detroit, with a heart attack for dessert, worth an enormous health bill? Your choice. Last time I looked for out of Canada medical insurance its cost was paltry, particularly if you are under 60 years old. The older you are the more onerous the exclusions.

What’s that? Exclusions?

Don’t be a twit. No insurance company really wants to make a costly payout and, rest assured, when you signed up for your out of country medical coverage you signed away any right to privacy to your medical records. Any comment or analysis made by any doctor you have consulted prior to your trip is open book for the insurance company’s legal team to deny your claim.

Do not assume your purchase of out of country medical coverage offers you protection, particularly if you have been undergoing some medical tests prior to your departure.

For example, you have a colonoscopy and suffer a heart attack abroad. As the colonoscopy is a non routine medical test, any medical expenses incurred as a result of the abroad heart attack could be denied. While many insurance companies will offer out of country coverage for pre-existing conditions, or even undiagnosed conditions, there may be severe reductions in coverage for these conditions to the extent that coverage may be restricted to $150,000 instead of $5,000,000 for those without pre-existing or un diagnosed medical conditions.

It makes no difference how well you feel. Use your common sense and take the time to read the insurance policy, particularly the section entitledExclusions/General Exclusions and most importantly Out of Country Coverage.

Reading these insurance policies is not easy. My advice is that if you have been tangled up in the medical system lately, and are about to travel, you must review the out of country medical coverage section of your policy very carefully. If you have any doubts, seriously consider reviewing the insurance contract with a lawyer or ask as many questions as you like with the insurance representative on the phone.


Was your car damaged in the B.C. windstorm? Here’s what you need to know

Monday, August 31st, 2015

By Nick Logan | World Reporter/Global National Web Producer  Global News

VANCOUVER — B.C. residents whose cars faced the wrath of Mother Nature during Saturday’s dramatic windstorm will have to check how much coverage they purchased in order to determine whether they’ll be covered for trees and tree limbs falling on their vehicles.

“It would depend on the insurance policy you purchased for your vehicle,” Adam Grossman, senior media relations adviser for ICBC, told CKNW. “Typically an object falling on your vehicle, in this situation a tree landing on your vehicle, would be a comprehensive claim.”

While B.C. drivers have to get their basic coverage through ICBC, it is up to them whether they get full coverage through the Crown corporation or through another provider, he explained.

Comprehensive coverage — which covers damage caused by lightning, hail, wind, rising water and falling or flying objects — is optional. But, “thankfully,” most B.C. drivers would have comprehensive coverage through ICBC or a private insurance provider, Grossman added.

“Around 80 per cent of our personal insurance customers get their full coverage through us and that would include collision and comprehensive coverage as well.”

Grossman said in many cases, depending on the individual car owner’s policy, the cost of towing the vehicle to the repair shop to get a damage estimate would be covered.

When it comes to branches and limbs falling on a vehicle, for example, it’s more likely you may only need parts, such as the windshield, to be replaced.

“In the cases where a tree in its entirety has come down on top of a vehicle, in many cases you’ll be looking at a total loss for that claim rather than a repair,” Grossman said. And how much the payout for a “total loss vehicle” will be depended both on the insurance package and the market value of the car.

“We do sell a package, as other insurers do, which can guarantee the full replacement value for their vehicles, for the purchase price. But, again, that’s dependent on whether you purchased that package or whether you have a standard policy with us.”

In cases where there is a dispute over the offer ICBC makes on their claim, such as over the value of a vehicle that has been damaged beyond repair, Grossman said there are steps a customer can go through to appeal.

While there will be a deductible applied to any insurance claim, he added the “good news” is that a comprehensive claim won’t affect a customer’s insurance premium down the road like a collision claim would.

If you need to make a claim, ICBC’s dial-a-claim line is operational 24 hours a day. The number for the Lower Mainland is 604-520-8222. For customers elsewhere in B.C., dial 1-800-910-4222. www.icbc.com

“We always advise to submit the claim to us as early as you can, and we can start the process for you and make sure that your repair or replacement is taken care of,” Grossman said.


Slow Down, Move Over – The 70/40 Rule

Sunday, August 30th, 2015

I was driving to Nanaimo and somewhere around Cook Creek there was a black vehicle with several flashing lights stationary at the side of the road. The road was not particularly busy and I was in the curbside lane.  As I approached, traveling at the posted 110 kph. I gradually reduced my speed, checked my mirrors and moved into the outer lane so that I was traveling at 70 kph before I drew alongside the vehicle.  As I passed this vehicle I could see police officer walking in front of the vehicle, taking photographs into the ditch.

I noted a large 4×4 truck bearing down on me from behind in an aggressive manner and clearly the man driving it was ignorant of the law and just saw me as a nuisance to his progress.  When we had passed the stopped police vehicle I resumed my speed and moved back to the other lane as he roared past me, clearly trying to make a point.  It occurred to me later that he might have tried to solve his angry situation by passing me on the inside which could have had catastrophic consequences.

I have tried in many ways to be sure that people I know are aware of this law and the reason for it, but all too many drivers seem to be unaware and therefore create even more potentially dangerous situations.  Is there any more obvious way to ensure that motorists obey this law?  A few signs posted on the highway are not enough.

If only all drivers thought ahead as they drove and were as considerate as the woman who wrote this message was in the situation. I can only add that you may wish to think of this as the 70/40 rule when you encounter a stopped official vehicle. If the speed is 80 km/h or greater, slow to 70. Otherwise, slow to 40 km/h. It really isn’t that difficult!

Reference Links:

Slow Down, Move Over articles on DriveSmartBC

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.


Secondary suites most common in B.C.

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015

(Vancouver, BC): Over the past 6 months, over 4,000 house owners across Canada and has found over 14% of them rent out a portion of their home to non-family members. BC has the highest rate at 25% while the Prairie Provinces have the lowest at 5%. This could be a basement suite in the home, or a garage converted to a laneway home. Vancouver-based Square One says that while mortgage-helpers are well, helpful, there are implications to a home insurance policy that they need to be aware of.

“The high percentage of people renting out a portion of their houses is understandable given today’s economy and the rising price of real estate across the province,” says Daniel Mirkovic, Square One’s President & CEO. “In fact, we suspect the actual percentage is considerably higher. Some people may be reluctant to disclose this information to their home insurance provider if they haven’t secured necessary municipal approvals and permits.”

The rental income from your tenants can be a great help in paying off your mortgage. But if you’re considering renting out part of your home, be sure to discuss it with your insurance provider first. A rental suite may or may not be allowable under the type of policy you have, and adjustments may need to be made in order for coverage to remain in place. Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re considering renting out a portion of your home:

  • If you built a rental suite in your home, you’ve likely increased the value of the property. Most insurance policies require you to advise them within a certain period of time of any improvements over a certain amount. If you fail to do this, you may find yourself underinsured in the event of a loss. Your insurance agent can help you determine the new replacement cost of your home.
  • Your home insurance policy likely requires you to advise your insurance agent if you are going to make any significant changes to the building, or to how it’s used. Your policy was sold to you based on the fact that it was a single-family dwelling. If it becomes a multi-family dwelling, and if you neglect to advise your insurance agent, your policy could be invalid.
  • More people living in the home leads to an increased liability risk. If your tenant, or a guest of your tenant, trips on a ladder in your backyard, or slips on an icy step, you can be sued for their injuries. You may want to increase your liability coverage, and may pay a slightly higher premium due to the increased risk.
  • Your homeowner’s policy will not cover your tenant’s property, nor will it cover your own property in the unit, such as window coverings, appliances, or furniture in a furnished suite. You may need to add “landlord’s property” insurance to cover anything you own. And make sure your tenants carry their own insurance. This will cover their personal property, and it may cover your property, if they unintentionally damage your home.
  • A number of municipalities have changed their bylaws to allow the conversion of a garage to a laneway home. The insurance on your laneway home will need to be upgraded to cover a secondary dwelling to protect it to its full replacement value, or you will need to purchase a separate policy for the laneway home.
  • If you’re counting on that rental income to help pay your mortgage, you should purchase insurance to protect you in the event that income is lost. If there is a fire or other insured loss, and your tenants move out while the property is being repaired, your insurance can replace the income you’ll lose while the property is uninhabitable.

Since more and more people are creating rental spaces in their homes, it’s important to have the right insurance coverage in place.


Vicarious Liability Of Vehicle Owner – What If The Vehicle Owner Provided Limitations On The Use Of The Vehicle?

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015

Article by Sudevi Mukherjee-Gothi

Torkin Manes LLP

The Court of Appeal in the August 10th, 2015 decision in Fernandes v. Araujo et al. addressed the vicarious liability of an owner of a vehicle for the negligence of a person who had possession of the vehicle with the owner’s consent. The Statutory Third Party Insurer for the owner of the ATV was denying third party coverage to the Defendant driver and was relying upon the 1952 decision in Newman and Newman v. Terdik, which held that:

The owner is not vicariously liable for damages sustained as a result of a highway accident when the person with possession of the vehicle violated the condition and drove the vehicle on a highway

However, the Court of Appeal

Affirmed a long line of authority going back to 1933 holding that as the vicarious liability of an owner rests on possession rather than operation of the vehicle, the owner will be vicariously liable if the owner consented to possession, even if the driver operated the vehicle in a way prohibited by the owner.

What is the basis for this finding?

1. The Highway Traffic Act

s. 192 (2) of the Highway Traffic Act provides:

192(2) The owner of a motor vehicle or street car is liable for loss or damage sustained by any person by reason of negligence in the operation of the motor vehicle or street car on a highway, unless the motor vehicle or street car was without the owner’s consent in the possession of some person other than the owner or the owner’s chauffeur.

This provision therefore places the onus on the owner of the vehicle to be careful in who is being provided responsibility for the operation of the vehicle.

2. Was the decision in Newman wrongly decided?

The Court of Appeal held that:

The proposition upon which Newman rests, namely, that “possession can change from rightful possession to wrongful possession, or from possession with consent to possession without consent” where the person in possession violates a condition imposed by the owner, is inconsistent with the reasoning of this line of authority.

The Court of Appeal cites many cases contrary to the findings in Newman. Although it grapples with its authority to overturn Newman, the Court of Appeal ultimately finds that

Overruling Newman would enhance rather than undermine the interest of clarity, coherence and predictability in the law. Accordingly, it is my view that we should overrule the case and declare that it no longer represents the law of Ontario.

What does this mean?

1. If possession is given, the owner will be liable even if there is a breach of a condition attached to that possession, including a condition that the person in possession will not operate the vehicle.

2. Breach of conditions placed by the owner on a person’s possession of the vehicle, including conditions as to who may operate the vehicle, do not alter the fact of possession.1

Therefore, be careful with regard to who borrows your vehicle.

Footnote

1 Seegmiller v. Langer (2008), 301 DLR (4th) 454

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.


BC’s Rock Creek fire victims not likely to get provincial disaster assistance

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015

By Maryse Zeidler, The Early Edition, CBC News

Residents of homes in Rock Creek, B.C. that were destroyed by a raging wildfire that’s been burning out of control since Thursday are unlikely to receive disaster assistance from the provincial government.

That’s because there are specific, legislated rules that govern who can access the province’s disaster financial assistance, said Forests Minister Steve Thomson.

“Fire is an insurable risk, so it’s not directly eligible under the program,” he said.

In other words, because homeowners and renters can get personal insurance to cover fire damage, the province is highly unlikely to cover the losses.

So far, at least 30 homes have been destroyed.

How fire insurance works

Aaron Sutherland, manager of government relations with the Insurance Bureau of Canada — an organization that represents Canadian home, auto and business insurers — says fires are usually covered under basic home and tenant insurance.

So unlike earthquake insurance, which is typically added on to a home insurance package, fires are automatically covered.

“Typically it will cover your reconstruction costs for your home, your contents as well,” said Sutherland.

“It’s also important to know that most home and tenant policies will cover reasonable living expenses while people are facing a mandatory evacuation order.”

That usually includes items such as food, shelter and other essentials.

Thomson said the insurance industry is keeping a close eye on the number of homes affected by wildfires each year.

“The unfortunate reality is that with our changing climate that could become all-too-real event for us going forward,” he said.

“Certainly no one instance is going to impact premiums, but the trend certainly would be worrying.”

Other provincial support may be available

Thomson said although the Rock Creek fire victims may not be eligible for the disaster financial assistance fund, there may be other avenues for them.

“We’ll be looking at a range of supports and programs that may be available and coordinating those across ministries and across government,” he said.

Thomson said the minister responsible for emergency management would be visiting the region on Tuesday.


B.C. judge rules insurance company must pay out owner for marijuana grow-op destroyed by arson

Monday, August 17th, 2015

By Cam Fortems, Kamloops This Week

THE CANADIAN PRESS

KAMLOOPS, B.C.  – An insurance company must pay a homeowner for the loss of a house and its contents in an arson following an RCMP raid of a marijuana grow operation, a judge has ruled.

Wawanesa Insurance Co. denied benefits to Steven Davidson, arguing he knew about the grow-op in the basement of his house.

However, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Shelley Fitzpatrick ordered Wawanesa to pay Davidson, who represented himself at the trial, $215,000.

The remaining amount of $211,000 for the loss was paid to a bank that had a mortgage on the house.

During the raid, in April 2010, police found more than 600 plants, property they believed was stolen, and illegal firearms.

The next day, the house was destroyed in an arson.

At the time, Davidson was working as a contractor setting up illegal grow operations near 100 Mile House.

Court heard he has a dated criminal record for forgery and possession of stolen property.

Davidson was on bail for assaulting his wife, though charges were later dropped, and banned as part of a court order from being within 100 metres of his house, where she lived.

He argued that since he was working away from Kamloops, and banned from being at the home, he did not know about the grow-op.

While Davidson did make a visit to his house anyway, he testified that he did not notice a basement door drywalled shut and painted over.

“This is a case close to the line,” Fitzpatrick said in her ruling.

“But, I accept the evidence of Mr. Davidson and find, as a fact, that he did not know of the grow operation or even the other activities relating to potentially stolen property or potentially illegal firearms over the relevant period of time leading up to the fire.”

Wawanesa originally argued Davidson was responsible for the arson, but later dropped that contention.

The insurance company relied in part on its policy, which voids coverage in the event of marijuana production, whether or not the insured even knows about it.

However, Fitzpatrick said there is no evidence the arson had any connection to the grow-op, despite the suspicious timing.

The insurer also obtained video shot in March 2010 and shown in court, of Davidson discussing a visit to his home.

“Are you telling me she hasn’t got the basement fired up again?” an unidentified male asked Davidson in the video.

“Not very well,” he replied, adding what he’d seen ‘down there “was ” very pathetic.”

“I told her at the end of May that should be enough time to get her program finished, you know, get it up and running and finished,” he said, adding he would then sell the house.

Davidson argued “her program” referred to Boucher’s psychiatric program. (Kamloops This Week)


Skipping travel insurance when travelling within Canada could cost you

Friday, August 14th, 2015

Angela Mulholland, | CTV News

The experience of an Alberta mother who is facing a hefty air ambulance bill after prematurely giving birth in Ontario should be a lesson to all Canadians about their need for travel insurance — even while travelling within Canada, says one expert.

Amy Savill, from High Prairie, Alta., went into labour two months early while vacationing in Ontario last month. The hospital where she gave birth was not equipped to handle an infant as premature as Savill’s, so they were airlifted to a larger facility in Sudbury.

Savill received a bill for the flight Monday, and while she won’t disclose the exact amount, she says it’s “in the thousands of dollars.” She says it never occurred to her that she might need travel insurance within her own country.

But Robin Ingle, the CEO of Ingle International, Novus Health, and Intrepid 24/7, says most Canadians are unaware that not all their medical expenses are covered by the provincial health plans.

“I don’t think a lot of Canadians understand there are gaps in a lot of areas. Air evacuations are one, land ambulances are another — anything outside of core services may not be covered,” he said.

Ingle, who has worked in the insurance industry for over 35 years, says when Canadians get sick outside their province, most of their medical costs are covered through reciprocal agreements between the provinces, although each province has different agreements.

But he says when it comes to air ambulances, which are generally run by private companies, Canadians almost always have to foot the bill.

Canadians may want to consider buying travel insurance when travelling outside their provinces, Ingle advises. That would avoid a $30,000 air ambulance bill if, for example, they have to be airlifted to Vancouver after getting injured skiing in Whistler.

Ingle says such inter-province insurance is usually easy to get, even for those with existing medical conditions, but he says it’s important to ask questions to ensure that air evacuations are covered.

Some Canadians might also have travel insurance from their employee benefit plans, but Ingle warns they might have restrictions requiring employees to seek permission before undergoing air evacuations.

“You have to ask your HR people within your company, your benefit administrator. You have to be a good consumer and ask some questions,” he says, while also advising getting everything in writing.


Canada: Are you insured for ‘acts of God’?

Friday, August 7th, 2015

By Steve Morales | FindLaw Canada

Some recent wild weather, including Ontario tornadoes and heavy flooding in Alberta and Saskatchewan, have a lot of homeowners checking their insurance policies.

It raises a question that some people take for granted? Are you covered for natural disasters or “acts of God”?

First off, and to get technical, “act of God” isn’t used in Canada. It’s more of an American expression. In Canada, insurers use “peril” to describe those catastrophic unexpected events that can damage your home and property. However, you’re likely not protected against all perils.

Home insurance policies typically cover “named perils,” or disasters specifically designated in your policy. If you don’t see “tornado” or “earthquake” clearly named in your policy, there’s a good chance you’re not covered for it.

Damage from natural and unpredictable events such as lightning, wind storms or hail are generally covered in a basic home insurance package.

However, there are many uninsured perils that could affect you. These are predictable events that generally aren’t covered, although you can sometimes buy a broader coverage or specific policies to cover them.

Flood gates

A major one is flooding.  It’s the most common type of natural disaster in Canada and many companies simply don’t cover it. In insurance terms though, “flooding” means an overland deluge from rivers or lakes, not damage from a broken water main.

If you live in a floodplain, as many Canadians do, then a flood is considered a predictable event and you likely can’t get coverage for it.

Earthquakes might be a more surprising uninsured peril. While you probably don’t think of Canada being a hotbed of earthquakes, the country actually experiences around 4,000 every year. Many are minor, but the point is they’re somewhat predictable and they’re often not covered in standard home insurance either.

Of course, policies and providers vary greatly, so maybe you’re covered for all this stuff and you’re not sweating the floods sweeping through the prairies.

The bottom line though, is not to assume you’re covered. Just because something seems like it’ll be covered, that doesn’t make it so.

See more at: findlaw.ca


Twists and turns in ride and car sharing insurance

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015

For many people who own a vehicle and have the time, the idea of renting your car to others (car-sharing) or providing rides for money (ride-sharing) seems like a no-brainer. And for people who use these services, it can be a cost-effective way to get around.

With the help of new technology services such as Uber, Lyft and Sidecar (ride-sharing services) and FlightCar, GetAround and RelayRides (car-sharing), this industry is among the fastest-growing in America and around the world.

But as the debate over how to regulate them rages, insurance companies want people to understand what your personal auto insurance policy doesn’t cover. A major issue is liability: When a car is involved in an accident while being used in a car- or ride-sharing service, who pays?

According to the Insurance Information Institute, a standard personal auto policy for a vehicle you own and use personally won’t provide any coverage for any time the vehicle is used for car- or ride-sharing. Your coverage typically stops the moment a car owner logs into a ride-sharing app, and doesn’t resume until the customer/rider has exited and the transaction is closed.

Similarly, if you rent your car to strangers, a typical personal auto policy doesn’t cover it.