FREDERICTON (GNB) – The provincial government announced today that it has tabled its response to the Auto Insurance Working Group with the legislative assembly.

Justice Minister and Attorney General Marie-Claude Blais tabled the document, which recommends an increase to the cap on pain and suffering awards due to minor personal injuries and a new definition for such injuries.

"The new definition would mean that fewer New Brunswickers would be limited by the cap,” said Blais. “Our recommendation of a $7,500 cap exceeds the working group's suggested cap."

Blais said the recommended new cap amount would match the limit currently in place in Nova Scotia.

"Actuaries have told us that any increase in the required average premium with the proposed definition, together with an increase in the cap amount, could be absorbed by insurers, resulting in no increase in the average premiums," Blais added. "This would allow us to foster a market in which auto insurance remains affordable and accessible in a stable environment."

Blais is also recommending the $7,500 cap on damages be indexed annually to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), as recommended by the working group.

Other recommendations include:

●    that the Office of the Consumer Advocate be requested to co-ordinate the development of an information/education package to highlight the rights of individuals involved in a motor vehicle accident;
●    that the Department of Justice and Attorney General examine early-care programs in place in Alberta and Nova Scotia to determine whether such a program would be appropriate for New Brunswick; and
●    that the Department of Justice and Attorney General develop a process that provides for the regular review of the minor injury regime and which allows for input from all stakeholders.

The document was issued in response to recommendations brought forward by the Working Group on Auto Insurance. The working group was appointed in January, 2011 to review the cap on personal injury awards and the definition of personal injury which had been introduced by the provincial government in 2003 in an attempt to address the cost and availability issues New Brunswickers were experiencing at that time with regard to car insurance. The working group submitted its report in November, 2011.

The response will be posted online for 30 days to allow for input from stakeholders and the public.