Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

What price for a mom's life?

MPI says $57K; leaves bereaved spouse fuming

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Landon Hay has spent the past five months putting the pieces of his life back together.

Hay's young partner, Samantha Schlichting, 21, was killed Sept. 9, when the car she was driving on the Perimeter Highway was struck head-on by a drunk driver in a pickup truck going the wrong way.

The couple have two young children, Wyatt, 21/2 and Cheyenne, 1.

Hay said his family is being penalized because Schlichting was a stay-at-home mom.

As the spouse of a traffic fatality victim, Hay, 28, is entitled to a fatality payment from Manitoba Public Insurance. But because Schlichting was a stay-at-home mom with no income, Hay is only entitled to the minimum payment, $56,888, which he said is inadequate as compensation.

"They don't seem to place much value on a stay-at-home mother," Hay said.

Hay works 12-hour days at a St. Boniface asphalt plant, operating a loader at Bituminex Paving. He took a leave following Schlichting's death but is due to return in early April.

Hay said because he works long hours, he can't place his children in a regular daycare and is considering hiring a live-in nanny, but that will be extremely expensive.

Hay's two children are entitled to payments as well. An MPI spokesman said generally, children under the age of five would likely receive on average about $47,000 each. However, those funds would be placed in trust with the Public Trustee's Office until the children are 18 years of age and then released to them with interest. However, the surviving parent can make application to access those funds but it's up to the Trustee's Office to determine if the funds should be released.

Schlichting's mother, Margaret Schlichting, said she is upset with how MPI is treating her son-in-law and others like him.

"They simply don't place a proper value on a person's life and what they contribute," Margaret Schlichting said.

Surviving family members can appeal the amounts paid to them but appeals to an independent panel are rare and seldom successful.

An MPI spokesman said there were only 13 appeals to the independent panel between 2006 to 2011. Of those, only one appeal was successful. Two other cases are awaiting a ruling.

Hay and his two young children spent several weeks following Samantha's death at Margaret's home in Oak Bluff but have now returned to his home in Lorette.

"We won't be able to help them day-to-day," Margaret Schlichting said. "I work, live in Oakbluff and they live in Lorette. It's just not right."

Hay said that being able to spend every day with his children has helped them all cope with Samantha's death. However, coming to terms with the financial and practical realities of being a single dad raising two small children is proving to be difficult.

Hay is bitter with the amount of the MPI settlement and the no-fault insurance scheme which prevents him from suing the driver responsible for Schlichting's death.

"MPI doesn't make any provision for the care Samantha provided, not even on a temporary basis," Hay said. "Because we have no-fault insurance, I can't sue (the other driver).

"Since (the other driver) is protected by no-fault insurance, I think that MPI is obligated to cover that. It's only right that they at least do that."

Hay said he has appealed the amount of the fatality payment and is awaiting a hearing. He said he doesn't know what would be appropriate, but said the MPI amount falls far short.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca


Payments a 'cushion,' not life insurance

PAYMENTS made by Manitoba Public Insurance to surviving family members of individuals killed in traffic fatalities are intended to provide financial assistance.

MPI spokesman Brian Smiley said the fatality payments should not be viewed as life insurance.

"We realize no amount of money can bring compensation to people who have lost a loved one," Smiley said. "The payments are not a life insurance policy, but are designed to provide some financial cushion."

Smiley said the payment amounts are based on calculations that factor in a person's age at time of death, such as income.

Smiley said even for those individuals who have no income, payments are made to their surviving family members.

The payment amounts are consistent with those in other jurisdictions across North America, Smiley said -- they are reviewed annually and indexed for inflation.

Smiley said there are two avenues for appeal; an internal process through MPI's internal review office; a second, external level to the Automobile Injury Compensation Appeal Commission (AICAC).

Smiley would not disclose how many settlements are appealed to MPI's internal review office but said between 2006 and 2011, 13 cases were appealed to the independent AICAC.

Of those 13 independent appeals, MPI's original payment was upheld in eight of those cases; two rulings ordered minor variances to the original settlement; and two cases are waiting for a ruling.

MPI fatality payout facts

Paid to surviving spouse/partner and children, of victims killed in a motor vehicle collision

On average, there are 120 traffic fatalities every year in Manitoba.

MPI pays fatality settlements in 99 per cent of those deaths, except in cases of obvious suicide, or where there are no living dependents.

Between 2006-2011, MPI paid on average $10.1 million annually in death benefits.

Payments to spouse or partner range from a minimum of $56,888 to a maximum of $427,500, depending on the age of the victim and their income at time of death.

The highest payment is reserved when a person is fatally injured at the age of 45 years.

Fatality payments are also made to dependents: children under the age of 18; a separated or divorced spouse or partner receiving support payments; a parent substantially dependent on the victim. Dependent payments range from $27,021 to $49,777

-- compiled by Aldo Santin

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 2, 2013 A3

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