VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – The provincial government is outlining some legal tweaks to the system surrounding ICBC as the province tries to stop the financial bleeding at the public insurer.
Last weekend, the crown corporation painted a sad picture of its books, blaming a rise in claims for its nearly $1 billion projected loss this year.
The government is proposing a bunch of things that will only go through as of April 1, 2019, should Victoria approve the changes this spring. If new laws are not approved, Attorney General David Eby says drivers could see a hike in their premiums by up to $400. All changes will be also be retroactive to January 1, 2018.
All these legal changes will make a big difference when you file a claim or try to get money for your injuries.
One of the key things the province is tasking ICBC to do is to, clearly and legally, redefine what a minor injury is. We know it will include things like: sprains, strains, mild whiplash, cuts, bruises, stress and anxiety from a crash but not broken bones, brain injuries or concussions.
Vancouver lawyer Eric Goodman wonders if it’s fair that someone with a minor injury doesn’t get enough money to handle a lifetime of pain. “What they’re trying to do is just use a blanket term: ‘minor injury’, and apply it to everybody no matter what the personal circumstances and that’s just not the way it works.”
He also feels having the insurance company define the word moving forward is a little biased.
“Claims that they initially determined to be minor and for which they put aside a certain amount of money to pay-off eventually turned out to be very complex. So, that in it of itself is proof that you can’t just, right after an accident say, ‘this is a minor claim, here’s a few thousand dollars, be on your way.’ These types of injuries can be insidious and it takes time to determine how it effects that individual person.”
Victoria is also looking to cap the payout for minor injuries claims at $5,500 and Goodman thinks this may backfire. “What it has shown us that in Alberta and Ontario, putting caps on injury claims do not work. In Ontario, the premiums are higher than in BC and the courts are bogged down in fighting.”
Fighting because, he adds, minor claims will be handed off to a group of independent adjudicators and Goodman expects lengthy delays as people attempt to fight for their rights.
Goodman suggests the government look elsewhere to fix the problems at ICBC.
“The fact is ICBC was wildly profitable up until just a few short years ago before the Liberals took the profits out of their coffers and before ICBC started to get very litigious in the way they handled claims. If they had just compensated claimants fairly early, we wouldn’t be in this mess. This won’t alleviate the burdens on the legal system, in fact, it may just exacerbate the problem.”
All these changes come after the province’s assessment last week of ICBC, when Eby described the situation as a “dumpster fire,” while blaming the previous BC Liberal government for ongoing issues.