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Posted on January 13th 2011 in Legal Articles

Changes to the Law in 2010 – A Recap

Every year brings changes to a variety of laws, so much so that it is sometimes hard to keep track. Below we have summarized some key changes to Ontario laws that we think you should know about.

If You Are a Plaintiff

The procedure governing litigation in Ontario saw a number of modifications to make the system run more efficiently. One of the biggest changes was to the monetary ceiling of the Small Claims Court which increased from $10,000 to $25,000. This means that if you have a claim worth up to $25,000 you can avail yourself of what is often referred to as the “People’s Court.” The change took effect on January 1, 2010

If You Are a Driver

Several changes have been made to the Highway Traffic Act as well as to the Insurance Act. Fully licensed drivers, aged 21 and under, as well as all novice drivers, who are caught with any alcohol in their blood will receive an immediate 24-hour roadside driver licence suspension and, if convicted, will face a fine of $60-$500 and a 30- day licence suspension. In addition, novice drivers risk cancellation of their novice licence. These changes took effect on August 1, 2010. It is worth remembering that drivers who, at a road side stop, blow between .05 and .08, will immediately have their licence suspended for three days and will be fined $150.

Of course, in addition to these Provincial consequences, the Criminal Code provisions for impaired driving, for blowing over .08 and for refusing to blow also apply, and have far more significant consequences.

Another significant change to the Highway Traffic Act affects drivers caught driving with a suspended licence, including for default of family support. These drivers face a sevenday vehicle impoundment. These vehicle impoundments apply regardless of whether the vehicle is borrowed from a friend or family member, used for business or employment purposes, rented or leased. This new measure, however does not apply to suspensions for defaulted fines or medical conditions. This change took effect on December 1, 2010. The key changes to Ontario’s auto insurance law mainly involve a reduction to the benefits available to individuals who have been injured in a car accident. The following are some of those changes which took effect on September 1, 2010. Medical and Rehabilitation Benefits have been reduced from $100,000 to $50,000, although you can increase your limit to $100,000 if you choose to purchase optional coverage. Medical-Rehabilitation Expenses for minor injuries are limited to $3,500. Optional coverage cannot be purchased. A minor injury is defined as a sprain, strain, whiplash associated disorder, contusion, abrasion, laceration or subluxation and any “clinically associated sequelae”.

Income Replacement Benefits will now be calculated as 70% of gross weekly earnings, rather than the previous 80% of net income. The weekly cap of $400 remains, although you can purchase optional insurance coverage to increase the weekly cap to $600, $800 or $1000.

Housekeeping Benefits have been eliminated for all but those who have sustained a catastrophic impairment and optional insurance coverage is not available. A catastrophic impairment includes paraplegia, quadriplegia, limb amputations, total loss of vision, serious brain injuries. Attendant Care Benefits for those who have suffered more than a minor injury but not a catastrophic impairment caps out at $36,000, a fifty per cent reduction.

If You Are Involved in a Divorce or Separation

In an effort to improve the public’s access to the province’s family courts a number of changes have been introduced. These changes, which came into effect on March 1, 2010, include:

  • Steps to streamline and simplify family law litigation,
  • Making it easier to obtain a restraining order,
  • Child support being recalculated by a child support service when there is updated income information,
  • A request for a proposed plan for the child’s care and upbringing when making an application for custody and access. Information regarding an applicant’s current or previous involvement in any family law and criminal proceedings must also be included in the affidavit.
  • The definition of “Net Family Property” will now include any contingent tax liabilities when calculating a spouse’s debts and liabilities on the date of separation,
  • The definition of “Property” will now include a standardized calculation of the imputed value of a spouse’s interest in a pension plan.

If You Have School Aged Children

In an effort to curtail bullying and other threats to children while they are at school, the Ontario government has passed legislation entitled Keeping Our Kids Safe at School Act. This law requires all school board employees to report serious student incidents to their principal. School staff will make sure that the victim receives the support they need, such as counselling or referral to child and youth services. Serious incidents include racist, sexual, sexist or homophobic comments, slurs and jokes and graffiti as well as activities that could lead to suspension and expulsion. These changes took effect on February 1, 2010.

If You Are an Employee

Beginning early next year, if you are an employee and you wish to file a claim with the Ministry of Labour in respect of Employment Standards, you must first notify your employer of your intention. Notice can be done via mail, email, fax or phone. The hope is that the employer will remedy the situation voluntarily and in a prompt fashion. However, the requirement to contact the employer can be waived for vulnerable employees. This change will come into effect on January 19, 2011. Our firm works in all of these areas of the law and we would be pleased to provide you with additional information.