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  • Auto Insurance Rates Threatened
  • By Lee Romanov

    Wednesday, November 15, 2006

    TORONTO -- InsuranceHotline.com, Auto insurance policies include liability protection in case you cause damage or injury to another person.

    We all pay for the drunk driver, but now we could be paying even more, due to an omission under your Ontario auto policy.

    Andrew Grigg, of Hamilton Tiger Cat fame, has also become famous for a case-setting precedence. In September 1996, with a blood alcohol limit more than twice the legal limit, Grigg left a bar, drove through a stop sign, took a corner wildly, picked off a lamppost and injured Andrea McIntyre, a promising McMaster rugby athlete. She suffered mild brain trauma, recurring depression, suffers from a higher risk of arthritis and will never regain her athlete status.

    In a truly outrageous "glitch", Grigg was not advised of his legal rights, before a breathalyzer test and the court had to throw out his impaired charge. He pled guilty to careless driving and paid the $500 fine. A jury awarded McIntyre $250,000 for pain and suffering and $100,000 in aggravated damages. In a surprising twist, they also awarded the injured woman $100, 000 in punitive damages, a punishment penalty, designed to make an example of this drunk driver. The insurance company may have to pay this fine instead of the driver as the Ontario auto policy does not exclude punitive damage. Lawyers believe this is the first time a jury has awarded these damages in an auto accident.

    Oddly enough, commercial policies and even most homeowner policies have exclusions for "punitive and exemplary" damages. These are monetary damages awarded by juries when the jury feels the crime merits special punishment. Other provincial auto policies exclude these damages, but the Ontario policy does not.

    The question arises, "How is the wrongdoer punished when his insurance company picks up the tab?"

    If the appeal judge's decision to have the insurance company pay punitive damages holds up, every Ontario driver is probably see rate increases. The potential for juries to make these awards will increase and juries have no limit on punitive damages, so the sky's the limit. Lawyers have their heads together, trying to make the court see that insurance shouldn't pay punitive damages; guilty people should.

    Careless driving and impaired driving are criminal convictions and when combined with an accident will send a driver's insurance rates skyrocketing. For example a driver now paying $1 654 will see his rate jump to $14 893. These rates are sourced by InsuranceHotline.com, a free, unbiased, online quoting service which finds the best rates for all types of driving profiles.

    Go to www.InsuranceHotline.com before your renewal, be a good start to spending your money wisely in 2006.