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Honest men and million dollar fraudsters: The heroes and villains of car insurance

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There's been lots of talk recently about the high cost of vehicle insurance. A report by the Fraser Institute concluded that provinces with "government insurance monopolies" tend to have higher premiums than provinces with "private sector, competitive markets."

But Ontario has the highest premiums of them all — higher than provinces with so-called insurance monopolies. If the Ontario NDP gets its way, the Ontario Liberal Government will include some insurance cost reform in its soon-to-be-tabled Budget.

Through the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) the private insurers have just mounted a public campaign, to explain the Ontario discrepancy. Its argument, backed by the Fraser Report, is that most of the money is going to the wrong places — hidden legal fees, fraud, and excessive assessments by for-profit medical facilities.

One criminal outfit called "Project 92" was estimated to bill $25 million in fraudulent insurance claims. Its ringleader, now behind bars, staged fake accidents and had corrupt accomplices in every link of the repair and medical chain, who over-billed for everything.

When vehicles come together in noisy and expensive ways, it's not always the worst in people that shows up; sometimes it's the best. At least that's been my experience.

Over the years I've had three parked cars that have been hit by somebody when I wasn't around, and in every instance, they left a note, and eventually made proper restitution.

The most memorable of these occasions was the latest one, involving the guy that delivers our morning paper in his old van. I guess on that fateful morning he jumped out of his van without first putting it into "park." It went down the street, driverless, first careening off our Mazda6, then settling into a Hyundai Sonata owned by my neighbour Tim.

When Tim and I went out in the morning, we both found notes on our cars, just listing a phone number to call about the damage. My left mirror was gone, and a fender was creased. Tim's car was a bit worse.

I eventually got hold of his teenage son, who explained that his father, being a recent immigrant, couldn't speak English too well. Both of them would come around on Saturday to make arrangements. I offered to call my insurance company. Maybe he just could pay the deductible? I was a bit worried that his body shop of choice might not do the job as properly as my body shop of choice.

He said I should not worry at all about getting my car fixed, or getting it fixed properly, because his father was a very honest man. I distinctly remember how he said all this. He said it slow and with no inflection, like he wasn't trying to sell me anything, just stating a fact.

The cars were fixed promptly and properly. I can't imagine how many days delivering newspapers it took to pay a body shop to fix both cars that way, but probably a few.

Source: Mike Goetz Metro Canada

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