Taking lawyers out of personal injury claims will allow the Insurance Corp. of B.C. to cut vehicle insurance rates by an average of 20 per cent next year, while increasing wage loss and other payments to injured people, Premier John Horgan says.
Horgan and Attorney General David Eby announced a new vehicle insurance system Thursday that they expect to have in place by May 2021. In the meantime, Eby said basic insurance rates will not increase after April 1, 2020, and the 2021 rate will be reduced by an average of $400 by further restricting lawsuits.
Legislation will be introduced this spring to cut ICBC rates by an average of 20 per cent, and increase maximum care and treatment benefits for people injured in a crash to $7.5 million, or more in some cases for catastrophic injuries that require long-term care. The current cap is about $300,000, with many areas of care determined through legal disputes.
B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson said Thursday the new rules will force seriously injured people deal with the “state-run monopoly” for the rest of their lives.
“Why aren’t we being offered the Saskatchewan model where drivers can choose either no-fault or the current system of lump-sum payments, with no difference in premiums?” Wilkinson said. “People deserve a choce and they deserve it now.”
The B.C. Green Party endorsed the changes, which will require support beyond the B.C. NDP minority to pass the necessary legislation.
“Government and ICBC will need to earn the trust of British Columbians as they implement this new system,” said Saanich North and the Islands MLA Adam Olsen, the interim Green leader. “It is critical that people are able to smoothly access the support and compensation they need for their recovery.”
The improvements will be paid for by removing the majority of legal fees and other costs from courts, with disputes directed to a civil resolution tribunal. The new system is not “no fault,” government officials say, with exceptions that would still allow legal action.
People who commit criminal offences such as impaired or dangerous driving, or those who do faulty manufacture or repair of vehicles would still be liable to be sued for damages. Rates will also rise for drivers who cause accidents.
The legislation will create an “ICBC fairness officer,” and people can also appeal to the B.C. Ombudsperson if they dispute a decision from the civil resolution tribunal.
ICBC calculates that with the April 2019 move of minor cases to a civil resolution tribunal, and capping “pain and suffering” payments at $5,500, the corporation expects to save about $1 billion this year. But even with the cap, pain and suffering claims are still expected to total $940 million in 2022 without the changes to be implemented this year.
ICBC currently has 90,000 claims in the current court-based model, and the corporation expects it will take five years or more to settle those.