Partner Joanna Sweet Talks to Local Media About Increasing Caregiver Pay

Fast forward to the 3:15 mark to see Joanna Sweet discussing these cases

Partner Joanna Sweet was recently interviewed by CBC News and Windsor Morning to discuss insurance coverage for personal support workers (PSW).

Sweet is currently representing two crash victims in separate lawsuits against their insurance companies. The two victims, Harry Spyridis and Raymond O’Keefe, are seeking increased compensation for the cost of hiring personal support workers. Currently, their insurance companies are offering less than minimum wage.

“Personal support workers don’t work for less than minimum wage,” Sweet said at a news conference covered by CBC News.

Both victims suffered life-altering injuries – they both have fractures in their legs, spine, pelvis, shoulder and hips. Spyridis is a retiree who lives alone and O’Keefe, who was a mechanic before his accident, lives with his wife.

O’Keefe’s wife can help with some daily tasks. “It’s not right for insurance companies to rely on family and friends to provide care,” Sweet said.

Interview on Windsor Morning

In her interview with Nav Nanwa, host of Windsor Morning, Sweet discussed the reasons why people may need personal support workers after an accident.

She noted that some crash victims need help with basic activities like getting dressed, bathing, making meals and running errands.

This care should be paid for by the liable insurance company, up to a monthly maximum at market rates. Unfortunately, Economical Insurance and Coachman Insurance are offering very low rates to her clients, despite the fact that PSW’s often charge upwards of $30 to $40 per hour.

When the insurance company does not cover these costs, victims’ remaining options are not great. They can either pay out of their own pockets or they can go without care. Another factor to remember is that victims may be unable to work, which means money is tight.

“It really impedes their ability to get better,” Sweet said.

Sweet wants insurers to end the practice of paying below-market-rates for PSWs. “These are benefits that are part of a standard automobile policy that we should all have access to,” she said.

While there is an appeals process, it can take a long time. Although Sweet has initiated lawsuits on behalf of her clients, it is going to take a long time to recover money for the care that they need.

Economical Insurance declined to comment on the situation, while Coachman has not yet responded to requests for comment.

The Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA) of Ontario regulates the insurance industry in the province. The FSRA’s Senior Manager of Media Relations, Russ Courtney, said regulations do not set an hourly wage. Individuals can receive a maximum of $6,000 per month, which amounts to about 420 hours of care at a rate of $14. This is less than the Ontario minimum wage of $15.50 per hour.

Courtney noted that people who hire providers who charge more than that must pay for the extra cost on their own.

Unfortunately, Sweet has heard anecdotes from other Ontario residents that are similar to the situation her clients are facing.