04/10/2014 03:06 EDT | Updated 06/10/2014 05:59 EDT

New law bans payouts for golf cart, race car or toy car accidents in Manitoba

WINNIPEG - Manitoba is set to close a loophole that forced the province's publicly owned insurance company to pay out for single-vehicle accidents involving golf carts and race cars.

The governing NDP is introducing legislation Thursday that, among other things, will spell out Manitoba Public Insurance will not be held liable for accidents involving golf carts, race cars on a closed track, Segways or a battery-operated children's vehicles.

Kathy Kalinowski, a lawyer for MPI, said the changes stem from a court battle a few years ago when a man injured himself on a golf cart.

The man clipped his knee on a golf course bridge while driving the cart and the golf course suggested he pursue MPI for a payout even though golf carts are not insurable, she said.

"The judge found that indeed golf carts can be compensated for single-vehicle accidents under the personal injury protection plan," she said.

There are now three similar claims pending. The public insurer has also had to pay out for accidents that occurred when drivers took their sports cars out on race tracks, she said.

Kalinowski said she didn't know how much such claims have cost the insurer.

Justice Minister Andrew Swan said a catastrophic injury claim can cost up to $5 million and Manitoba drivers shouldn't be footing that bill.

"I don't think that's what most Manitobans think their MPI premiums should go for, so we are potentially avoiding what could potentially be a massive claim," he said.

The province consulted with golf courses to see if they were interested in paying insurance premiums so golf carts could be covered by MPI, but Swan said they declined.

The legislation tabled Thursday specifically bans payouts for single-vehicle accidents involving "golf carts, electric bikes, Segways, children's battery operated cars" unless they are involved in an accident with an insured vehicle.

It also grants the insurer more tools to investigate fraud and makes it an offence to lie about a claim.

In addition, the proposed legislation paves the way for a low-cost loan program announced in the budget that would equip more cars with snow tires and increases some benefit payments.

Although Swan said the changes should save the insurer money down the road, he didn't rule out a rate hike for drivers this year. This winter has been hard on the insurer with claims up by 35 per cent, Swan said.

"Additional claims costs definitely put more pressure on the system," he said. "We've had a very, very difficult winter. We'll leave it at that."

The public insurer can ask for a rate increase in June.