The Gazette’s Max Harrold has an interesting feature today on Quebec’s no-fault driving insurance system. He asks whether or not we should consider eliminating it and allowing victims of vehicular injuries to sue in cases where negligence or recklessness directly leads to serious injury or death. It features three interviews with grieving family members (the third is the mother of Jessica Holman-Price, who was killed by a dump truck turning a corner).
All three want the law changed so the guilty pay the innocent instead of getting compensation from the government. (See comment below)
The no-fault system is pretty simple: Everyone’s a part of it, drivers can’t sue each other even if one is clearly at fault, and anyone who sustains an injury gets compensated. In exchange, Quebec has Canada’s lowest insurance premium rates.
But the problem, as the article points out, is that even in cases of dangerous driving (speeding) and impaired driving (drunk driving), perpetrator and victim are treated the same, both compensated based on their level of injury. Only criminal charges can be brought, which then result in probation or light sentences.
Despite the opinions of the families (and really, it’s kind of hard to argue with a grieving widow or mother), I remain unconvinced. It’s not that there isn’t a problem of justice here, but I think other methods are more likely to solve it:
- Impose stiffer sentences for drunk driving and dangerous driving, especially when such actions result in death. Speed racing that causes death, for example, should be considered homicide. Make license suspensions longer or even permanent in extreme cases.
- Use Manitoba’s system where drivers convicted of criminal charges related to an accident have to pay back any compensation they’ve been given as a result.
- Increase the number of police cars on the road so these accidents don’t happen in the first place.
- Find some way of forcing those found guilty of criminal offenses to pay the innocent, either by imposing a fine or by allowing lawsuits only when serious convictions have taken place.
Nobody wants to get into a car accident. Even those who are insanely reckless don’t expect to crash. So nothing will seriously act as a deterrent to accidents causing injury (though there are ways to attack the causes of those accidents).
In the end, no-fault insurance isn’t always perfectly fair, but it’s a compromise that keeps lawyers from sucking out all our money after we’ve already been hurt.