By: Ben Waldman
Winnipeg Free Press, Sept. 30, 2020
Three months ago, Arthur Ray was crossing Main Street in his motorized wheelchair when a vehicle hit him and damaged the wheelchair significantly, leaving the 76-year-old without a way to safely get around.
“A lady was looking in a different direction, and she drove into me,” he said. “My wheels stopped working, the machine broke, and now, it’s basically useless.”
In his condition, he could use a walker, but only for a few metres before running out of breath. So he contacted Manitoba Public Insurance to see whether he could get compensation to purchase a replacement chair, which he said would cost about $3,000.
Ray said the public insurer offered him $2,000, which he said isn’t enough to pay for the type of electric wheelchair he had. He bought it for around that much last year, and only used it for about 400 kilometres. Comparable chairs frequently sell for significantly more now, he said. The company he bought the chair from now sells it for about $2,600.
“The offer is laughable,” he said, adding that he’s been back and forth with MPI since the middle of summer, and there’s been no resolution. He’s provided cost quotes for a similar chair, but he said MPI’s offer hasn’t changed. Ray said he doesn’t have the money to pay the replacement cost.
An MPI spokesperson said the policy that covers damaged wheelchairs is the same as those used to cover bicycles or vehicles. MPI offers an amount that reflects the cash value of the item based on the adjuster’s insights and documentation from the customer, along with the condition of the device. The offers aren’t based on replacement cost.
Ray said that wheelchairs shouldn’t be treated the same way. “They can’t treat it as they would a car,” he said. “The simple answer is, it doesn’t matter how much I paid or what it cost a year ago. I lost a piece of my property, and that property is more expensive in today’s value.”
“(The offer) does not cover the market value,” he said.
MPI wouldn’t comment on this specific case, citing confidentiality concerns, but said Ray has the option of escalating his claim to a supervisor or exercising an appeal option provided by the insurer.
Ray said he’s aware of those options, but that he’s tired of going back and forth with the insurer and tired of being essentially stuck within walking distance of his apartment.
“The government is supposed to look after people like myself,” said Ray, who lives alone. “Between what they offered me and what I need to afford (a new chair) is (a few hundred). To MPI, it’s nothing.”
“For a public insurer, they don’t seem to give a damn about the public.”