Dispute over payout caps puts auto coverage rates in election spotlight

A woman who suffers from neck pain years after an accident totalled her car is angry that the Stelmach government is appealing a ruling that struck down Alberta’s insurance caps on minor injury claims.

Linda Pyck was broadsided by a car making a left-hand-turn in 2005, giving her whiplash and resulting in months of physiotherapy, she says.


The legal assistant now only suffers from pain when she makes quick movements, she says, but the government’s appeal means she probably won’t file a lawsuit until after the cap issue between the province and the courts is settled.

"My life has been put on hold," she says. "I don’t own a home because prices of homes skyrocketed after the accident. And I don’t think I am ever going to own a home because of this now."

Premier Ed Stelmach announced the government’s appeal during a campaign stop in Calgary yesterday, sparking criticism among opposition parties as a major election issue.

The province introduced a $4,000 cap on "soft-tissue" injury claims in 2004, but a judge ruled last week that the cap is unconstitutional because it discriminates against specific victims of vehicle collisions.

Stelmach said the decision to appeal that ruling is meant to ensure that auto-insurance rates remain affordable, but opposition parties accuse him of catering to big insurance companies over families.

New Democrat Leader Brian Mason predicted that the government’s appeal would eventually fail. He vowed yesterday to set up a public insurance system as part of his election platform.

The Liberals asked for an impartial review of insurance options, including a public system like those used in B.C. and Saskatchewan.


year-long delay?

  • Arthur Wilson, president of the Alberta Civil Trial Lawyers Association, expects Stelmach’s decision to appeal will delay lawsuits by at least a year or more until after the government’s case is heard in the Court of Appeal.

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