A year on from the launch of the Licence Appeals Tribunal (LAT) process for accident benefits matters, Ottawa personal injury lawyer Najma Rashid has mixed opinions on what she’s seen so far.
In April 2016, all disputes under the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule were diverted from the Financial Services Commission of Ontario, where they were subject to mandatory mediation, and into arbitration at the LAT in the biggest shakeup to the practice area in a generation. Claimants also lost their right to sue in court over accident benefits as part of the changes.
Rashid, a partner with Howard Yegendorf & Associates, says the new process has taken some getting used to for her and her colleagues at the personal injury bar.
“There are more disadvantages than advantages.”
Still, she says there are signs of promise for claimants. For example, she says accident victims have seen some advantages from the tribunal’s speedy deadlines, which are designed to see most cases completed within six months.
“If your treatment plan or your income replacement benefits have been cut off, the time between the termination or denial and the commencement of the resolution process is relatively short,” Rashid says, noting the LAT tends to schedule a first-case conference within two months of an application’s launch.
“My experience is they have been very fast at booking a case conference hearing, and most of those have resulted in resolution. From the client’s perspective, it feels like the process is moving along a bit more expeditiously,” she adds.
And while claimants generally don’t have their costs covered during LAT proceedings, even if they’re successful, Rashid remains confident the tribunal will take action in extreme circumstances.
The report by former Ontario Superior Court Justice Douglas Cunningham that precipitated the move to the LAT recommended that when either party is found to be abusing the process they should pay all or part of the case conference and arbitration fees of the opposing party.
“I have had adjudicators tell me they have no ability to make special awards of costs. It hasn’t been tested yet, but I believe it will be in the future,” Rashid says.
Despite some encouraging signs, Rashid remains troubled by the “lack of procedural fairness” in the new process:
“Some aspects of fundamental justice are perhaps not being abided by,” she says.
Read more about Rashid’s concerns here.