LETTER OF THE LAW: Is the goverment stealing from assault victims?

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LETTER OF THE LAW: Is the goverment stealing from assault victims?



Currently in Ontario, if an injured person is receiving social assistance through Ontario Works, the person is only allowed to keep $25,000 of their total court awarded compensation for pain and suffering.

Is this fair?

The result is that if a person is awarded $100,000 from being innocently injured, our Ontario government swoops in and takes $75,000 of that money. If the person refuses to pay the money, the Ontario Government cuts off the victim’s support.

This clawback applies to all personal injury cases without exception.

A committee of lawyers in Toronto, the Select Committee on Sexual Violence and Harassment, recommended last year that sexual assault victims be exempted from the clawback by the Ontario government.

The committee argues the clawback is an access to justice issue. The victim gives discounted compensation just because the person is poor. Other victims who are not on social assistance get full compensation.

I can see the point of the clawback: if a person is awarded significant money, the person would then have assets that could disqualify the person from receiving social assistance.

I get this. A person with hundreds of thousands of dollars in the bank should also not be able to receive assistance paid for by the taxpayers of Ontario.

But $25,000 is too low a threshold. The Ontario Works cap of $25,000 has not been amended to keep up with inflation since 1990. The ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Plan) caps pain and suffering compensation from personal injury legal actions at $100,000. To me that is a more reasonable cap.

The clawback on pain and suffering damages by the Ontario government serves a purpose -- to ensure that taxpayers are not supporting a person who really doesn’t need financial support.

But the $25,000 cap is too low. At that level, innocent victims may not come forward with civil actions.

The $25,000 cap has not changed since 1990. I would urge the Ontario Government to increase the cap to $100,000 and let innocent victims keep more of their compensation for pain and suffering.

Kristian Bonn is a personal injury lawyer and partner at Bonn Law. He grew up in Trenton, works in Belleville and Trenton and lives just over the Bay Bridge in Prince Edward County.

Read More: Opinion, Letter of the Law, Quinte

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