Accident rates, injury claims and court costs have driven ICBC into deficit in recent years. (Black Press Media)

‘Fault matters’ at ICBC, injured people matter more, B.C. premier says

John Horgan, David Eby reject lawyer labels ‘no fault’ and ‘meat chart’

Lawyers call it a “meat chart.” It’s the schedule of payments for car crash injuries used by what they call “no fault” vehicle insurance companies – this much for losing an arm, that much for a leg.

That system is coming to the Insurance Corp. of B.C. in April 2021, after Premier John Horgan and Attorney General David Eby started digging into the soaring costs and rates faced by ICBC and its monopoly customer base. A battle with personal injury lawyers that began with capping “pain and suffering” payments and diverting smaller ICBC injury disputes to an independent tribunal is about to heat up.

The role of the “Civil Resolution Tribunal” will expand next year to deal with disputes in all injury cases, saving ICBC an estimated $1.5 billion in legal fees, courtroom experts and related costs.

The Trial Lawyers Association of B.C. was quick to challenge the tribunal approach, in a letter to Eby as it took into effect last April.

Calling it “independent” is questionable, “given that tribunal members are appointed by government for modest fixed term, and who render decisions that directly impact ICBC, a Crown corporation that answers directly to you as Attorney General,” the letter states.

The trial lawyers went on to attack the government’s definition of minor injury, and described an injured person’s ability to estimate lost future earnings as “a supreme feat of clairvoyance heretofore unknown to British Columbians.”

Announcing the change Thursday, Horgan defended it as a return to the spirit in which former premier Dave Barrett created it in 1973 as a break-even proposition. “It was not a for-profit enterprise, it was a for-people enterprise,” he said.

Horgan said the payment schedule includes a 24-fold increase in the maximum payout for serious, disabling injuries, from about $300,000 to $7.5 million, and in some cases more to cover costs of life-long nursing care.

He rejected the idea that taking disputes out of a slow, expensive trial process means there is “no fault” assessed to people who cause accidents.

“Fault matters still,” Horgan said. “You can’t run into someone without consequences. Your rates will go up. If you’re found criminally responsible or negligent, you can be sued. So we’re not taking the opportunity for claimants to sue. We’re saying in most instances, let’s provide the care first.”

Eby described the effect of lawsuit-based insurance on the health care system.

“I’ve had a number of meetings with doctors where they express increasing concern about the role they’re asked to play in the litigation system,” Eby told reporters at the B.C. legislature. “They have lawyers calling them and asking them to run certain tests on their patients that they don’t feel are medically necessary. They’re asked to spend an increasing amount of their time writing reports for the purposes of litigation, which they feel is distracting them from care-giving.”

RELATED: B.C. to cut ICBC rates 20% before 2021 election

RELATED: Horgan regrets ICBC rate hikes for young people

With a $5,500 cap on pain and suffering awards in place since last April, ICBC estimates it will save $1 billion in the current fiscal year on legal costs. But if the current lawsuit system continued, it estimates the capped payments would total more than $900 million by 2022, paid out to people who had temporary discomfort rather than a permanent disability.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureICBC

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Salmon Arm mayor supports parking solution for hungry truckers

Alternative to Highway 1 suggested for drivers wanting access to McDonald’s

Column: Keeping distance, working together and readying for rebound

Council Report by Salmon Arm Mayor Alan Harrison

Shuswap food bank gives away three months of food in one week

High demand in face of COVID-19, Eagle Valley Community Support Society appeals for donations

Salmon Arm asked to identify facilities for isolation in COVID-19 response

Mayor downplays need in city for new bylaw enforcement powers enabled by province

Second Vernon-area high school exposed to COVID-19

Kalamalka Secondary School staff, students urged to self-isolate if showing symptoms

B.C. VIEWS: Small businesses need our help

Just as integral in neighbourhoods in Vancouver and Surrey as they are in Prince George or Kelowna

‘Tremendous’ response from blood donors has supply keeping pace with demand

About 400,000 of Canada’s 37 million residents give blood on a regular basis

Morning world update: Cases surge past 600,000; positive news in Germany

Spain suffers its deadliest day as Germany considers April 20 to possibly loosen restrictions

VIDEO: Penguins roam empty halls of Vancouver Aquarium

COVID-19 has forced the Vancouver Aquarium to close access to guests – leaving room for its residents

Kids get back to learning in B.C., online

Ministry of Education rolls out new tool for school

Shuswap History in Pictures: Horse power

A horse and buggy brings two passengers into Sicamous in the 1920s.

67 more B.C. COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Vancouver region

Positive tests found in Surrey, Langley long-term care facilities

Most Read