Car thieves collect benefits from MPI
Under Manitoba's no-fault insurance system, suspected car thieves are entitled to the same benefits as other people on the road.
Michael Balingit was 15 years old when he lost his leg as the result of a car crash.
He was behind the wheel of a van he had just stolen. The vehicle smashed into a tree.
"I lost my leg and my passenger flew out the window," said Balingit.
Balingit's leg was amputated below the knee, while his passenger's wrist was shattered.
Manitoba Public Insurance covered their medical bills, said Balingit. He also received compensation for losing a limb.
"I'm not sure exactly what it was, but it was…a high amount," said Balingit.
He said MPI gave him between $30,000 and $60,000, while his passenger received between $10,000 and $30,000.
MPI officials wouldn't comment on how much Balingit received, saying it would be an invasion of his privacy to disclose the amount.
MPI also paid for Balingit's prosthetic leg and nine other ones he's worn during the past seven years.
"We'll pay for prosthetics we'll pay for re-training…we'll pay for a number of benefits that are part of our package," said Brian Smiley, a spokesperson for MPI.
MPI said no-fault insurance means everyone is entitled to benefits, whether they pay into the system or not. But, if an injured car thief is convicted of stealing the vehicle involved in a crash, MPI said benefits are reduced or penalized based on the person's level of liability in a crash.
In some cases, MPI will also pay for airfare. Sources told CTV News the mother of an injured car thief was flown to Winnipeg to be by his side in hospital. Her son was in a stolen vehicle that killed a cab driver in 2008.
MPI said it won't comment on specific cases, but said it pays for reuniting family members with critically injured loved ones if the situation meets specific criteria set out in MPI's regulations.
"We treat everyone the same ... we don't judge. We provide the benefits they're entitled to," said Smiley.
CTV News filed a freedom of information request to find out how much money MPI has paid convicted car thieves injured in stolen vehicle incidents.
MPI said it paid eight convicted car thieves about $41,000 in the past five years. But, that amount doesn't include ongoing payments, or payments to those who have been charged and not yet convicted.
Adrian Halpert was in his own car when a drunk driver nearly killed him two-and-a-half years ago.
Halpert, 25, fractured his pelvis, hip and femur in the crash and also broke two ribs. His lung collapsed and shards of glass were embedded in his face. He said that MPI told him his injuries were worth a little more than $30,000.
Halpert is still fighting for more compensation.
"That's your permanent disability…if you round it off, I'm probably getting two cents a day," said Halpert.
Halpert is a member of a support group for what he calls "victims of MPI's no-fault insurance."
No-fault insurance means people can't sue for more compensation.
Michael Balingit questions the insurance system.
"I don't think I should have gotten any money. And, I think…I guess (the crash is) our fault but I guess it's the (insurance) system right?" said Balingit.
Michael Balingit, who is now 22, waved his rights under the Youth Criminal Justice Act and gave CTV News permission to reveal his identity and criminal record. Since the car crash when he was 15, Balingit has been in and out of jail and is currently behind bars once more.
Convicted car thieves still receive certain insurance benefits, such as wheelchairs and prosthetics, even if they are in jail.
If suspects die in a crash involving a stolen vehicle, a death payment will be awarded to their families because a deceased person can't be charged or convicted.
Many provinces have no fault insurance options, but Manitoba is the only one in all of Canada with a strictly no-fault insurance plan.
MPI said it does collect about $400,000 per year by suing convicted car thieves.
MPI officials, however, wouldn't say how much of that money is for reclaiming cash that the Crown corporation had already paid out for injuries, or if it's for reimbursement for damages the thieves have caused.
On Thursday, the Progressive Conservative party called for changes to no-fault insurance.
- with a report from CTV's Caroline Barghout
- the vehicle accident support group can be reached at (204) 226-2720