Listening to the news about the cresting flood waters in Manitoba, I am reminded about the flood of accident benefit disputes making its way through Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO).
There was a time when I would file a FSCO mediation and then diarize the file for one year or even more, waiting for the mediation to be scheduled. The backlog was enormous and seriously compromised access to needed accident benefits. Thankfully those days are over. The serious effort that was made to clear up the mediation backlog must now be called a success. On July 17, 2014 I conducted a FSCO mediation, by telephone, in relation to denied medical and rehab treatments totaling $1,555.00, in a case where the Application for Mediation was dated June 17, 2014. That is a scheduling delay of just 30 days! This is how the system was intended to work.
Unfortunately - like the cresting flood waters out west that predictably make their way from one community to another – the mediation backlog, now corrected, has led to a bulge in the number of arbitrations that require adjudication. What was once a mediation backlog is fast on the way to becoming an arbitration backlog. I have just received a bulletin from FSCO which says that FSCO has “experienced an unprecedented increase in the number of dispute resolution applications”. The bulletin itself acknowledges that clearing up the mediation backlog of over 30,000 file “has resulted in an unprecedented volume of open arbitration files”.
Will FSCO be able to handle this increase in arbitrations? With the introduction of Bill 15 by the new majority Liberal government and the legislative plan to shift arbitrations from FSCO to the Licence Appeal Tribunal, how will this bulge in cases be handled? Won't the elimination of the right to sue for accident benefits, as outlined in Bill 15, compound the arbitration backlog?
The next six months will be an important and interesting time period to track, as auto insurance remains an unpredictable commodity.