VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The people who help car crash victims get better want recent changes at ICBC to be an election issue.
Occupational therapists consider themselves the backbone of rehabilitation for people putting their lives back together after a major traffic accident.
They say no-fault insurance leaves the injured with few options.
The NDP government introduced the no-fault insurance system earlier this year. It essentially removes lawsuits and lawyers from the process of determining damages.
The government says the money saved from not having to pay lawyers will go towards better treatments for the injured, including visits to chiropractors and counselling.
But Claudia Walker with Occupational Therapists Alliance of BC insists lawyers are vital for advocating for the injured. Removing lawyers from the system, she says, will reduce the amount of work for occupational therapists because, she claims, ICBC regularly denies rehab benefits.
“More importantly, our clients won’t get the treatment or the rehab they need if we can’t get the adjuster to agree. And for adjusters ‘no’ is often their first reply,” she says.
People who have issues with ICBC’s offer, such as insufficient therapy, will now have to file a dispute with the Civil Resolution Tribunal. Walker says the attorney general is sorely mistaken if he thinks people who would normally rely on lawyers to advocate for them will get the same outcomes at the tribunal.
“What David Eby is saying is that you with the brain injury, the trauma, the chronic pain, you bring your claim. You come to the tribunal to explain how ICBC has behaved badly and we’ll deal with you.”
The alliance fears people who are suffering are not in a position to represent themselves at the tribunal. “Most will give up and go away – this will be a cost savings for ICBC but will bring a huge cost to the individual,” says Hilary Drummond, managing director of the alliance. “The termination of rehab benefits for these individuals has an adverse discriminatory impact on the most vulnerable members of our society.”
Walker says she doesn’t buy the government’s argument that removing lawyers from the current system will result in more money for therapy.
“The amount of money that David Eby is going to be allocating if you are seriously injured is not going to come close to covering what it actually costs.”
Drummond is hoping the future of ICBC is something political parties will offer up to voters during the campaign.
“No-fault needs to be a key issue in the upcoming election. Each candidate needs to be asked what their position is and each of the other parties needs to explain how they will manage ICBC if they are successful. No Fault needs to be openly discussed with the community, with the compromises clearly and honestly explained.”