ICBC changes are no laughing matter

crash icbc.pngOn April 1, it was no joke when the provincial NDP’s attorney general, David Eby, introduced sweeping new rules limiting compensation for victims of motor vehicle accidents in BC.

But before I get into the details, two important points. First, full disclosure: I’ve been practising law since 1984, representing the victims of motor vehicle accidents.

Second, it’s important to understand how the formerly profitable ICBC got into its current sorry state of running a $1billion+ loss that the NDP government now has to contend with. So check out this interesting analysis in the Georgia Straight by Martyn Brown, former chief of staff for Premier Gordon Campbell for many years. It outlines the lead-up to ICBC’s huge deficit, including the $1.3 billion in ICBC profits the BC Liberals under Christy Clark sucked out of the crown corporation to help create a rosier fiscal picture.

Now back to the new rules that are so unfair because of how they limit compensation for MVA victims.

One of these changes is the minor injury cap, which limits the compensation for pain and suffering at $5,500. The term “minor injury cap” leaves anyone with the impression that only minor injuries are capped. Nothing can be further from the truth.

As an example, under the new rules, a person with a permanent, severe back injury would be limited to a maximum $5,500 for pain and suffering. Imagine that you’re involved in a MVA. You are not at fault. You are left with permanent back pain. All you are entitled to is a meagre $5,500 to compensate you for a lifetime of pain and suffering.

Another example: brain injuries. Our attorney general met with the Trial Lawyers Association of BC before launching these new rules. He promised that the definition of minor injury would not include brain injuries. He broke his word, and “minor injuries” now includes a permanent brain injury. (BTW, the association is taking the provincial government to court and launching a constitutional challenge over the new regulations.)

As you can see, “minor injuries cap” is a misleading term. Not only has Mr. Eby misled the public regarding the definition itself, he has also misled the public on the amount ICBC will pay to injured victims’ caregivers, such as physiotherapists, chiropractors and massage therapists.

Under the former regime, caregivers would be paid a certain fixed rate by ICBC. If they charged more — which most of them do — a client would pay the extra amount and keep her or his receipts to be reimbursed by ICBC at the end of the claim.

Under the new regime, ICBC has increased the fixed rates paid to caregivers, which is good. But they’ve also eliminated the right for the injured victim to be reimbursed by ICBC for any extra amount paid, so now your caregivers won’t be paid what they normally charge.

As if all of the above is not bad enough, I should also tell you that the number of expert reports an injured party may submit in support of their claim is also now limited — to three.

Let me give you an example of a typical head injury case. The injured party will need to get a report from his or her family doctor. Also required will be a report from a psychiatrist. A third report would be needed from a neurologist. If the head injury is going to cause a loss of earning capacity, which it almost certainly will, a fourth report will be necessary from a vocational consultant. As well, a report from an economist who calculates the lump-sum worth of future lost income would also be needed.

Of these five reports, which two would you eliminate?

At trial, an injured person relying on only three reports under the new rules will most certainly get short-changed in terms of what the final judgement is for compensation.

I’ve only touched on a few of the long list of very negative changes the provincial government has brought in trying to put our crown insurer back in good financial order. It’s going to be a hard row doing so, but this isn’t the answer. These changes will have a very negative impact on the rights of injured victims to fair compensation.

If you agree with me, I would urge you to contact David Eby and let him know your thoughts. You can email him at AG.minister@gov.bc.ca. Please also consider sharing this post on social media to spread the word on how these changes will further harm people injured by motor vehicles in BC.

 

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2 Responses to ICBC changes are no laughing matter

  1. Anita Romaniuk says:

    Although I’m not happy with the compensation limits (disclosure: I was the spouse of someone who settled out of court for an injury that would have qualified as “minor” if the new legislation had been in place in 2010), I think the blog post has left out something that is important. The person with the back injury would be exempted from the $5500 limit if the condition persisted and impacted their life for more than 12 months, and the person with a brain injury would be exempted if it lasted more than 4 months. This does open the possibility that they could, eventually, access a higher settlement. However, the person with the back injury would be stuck enduring pain for up to a year, not knowing if they will be forced to accept $5500 or something greater if they then went to court, and the person with the brain injury for 4 months. This would leave them vulnerable to pain and suffering and limited resources at a time when addressing their condition was most critical. I agree with the point of the article and did, in fact, write the politicians back when it was first proposed. I just wanted to point out the threshold for exemptions from the compensation limit which were not mentioned in the blog.;

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