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

Town grants Chamber $20K

Chamber estimates up to $65K in lost revenue, turns to council for help

COVID-19 highlights lack of connectivity in First Nations communities

Many don’t have access required to utilize online platforms, says First Nations Technology Council

Salmon closures announced for Skeena and Nass watersheds

DFO notice expands on May 21 chinook ban throughout Skeena watershed

New Salt Boutique the realization of a vision for owner Caroline Marko

Marko combines the rough and the soft in a minimalist, clean airy space

Coastal GasLink pipeline work ramps up

With spring thaw ending, workers start to arrive for summer season

VIDEO: Injured bald eagle rescued in B.C. First Nations community

Bird suspected injured in fight, whisked off to Coquitlam rehab

Toronto Raptors’ Ujiri says conversations about racism can no longer be avoided

Thousands have protested Floyd’s death and repeated police killings of black men across the United States

‘I’m afraid’: Witnesses of wolf attack on senior near Prince Rupert worried about safety

Frank Russ shows where the unprovoked wolf attacked his father

Protesters prepare to rally against racism in front of Vancouver Art Gallery

Rally is in response to the deaths of black Americans and a Toronto woman

Introducing the West Coast Traveller: A voyage of the mind

Top armchair travel content for Alaska, Yukon, BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and California!

Protesters rally against anti-black, Indigenous racism in Toronto

Police estimated the crowd to be between 3,500 and 4,000 and said there was no violence

Feds earmark $1.5M to support recovery of B.C., Indigenous tourism

B.C. money will be split between Vancouver Island and Indigenous tourism

‘We’re sick of it’: Anger over police killings shatters U.S.

Tens of thousands marched to protest the death of George Floyd

Most Read