If you’ve heard the news recently you’ll know about the upcoming cap on payouts for settlements on ‘minor injury’ claims.
As this will affect thousands of motor vehicle accident (MVA) claims occurring after April 2019, we wanted to shed some light on what led to this decision by the current NDP government, and what you can do about it.
Years of financial mismanagement and diverted funds.
In the 2014-15 provincial budget, the Liberal government redirected $480 million in “dividends” from ICBC into the provincial treasury. This was followed up with a 4.9% rate hike in the same year. Earlier that year, the Liberal Government stated that they were only going to pull $243 million; however, once they received permission for the rate hike, they cranked up that ‘government allowance’ to $430 million, which was paid by anyone with car insurance. In total, $1.2 billion was deferred away from ICBC and into the provincial coffers during their governance.
With this diverted revenue, the Liberal government created an illusion of a balanced budget in an attempt to secure the 2017 provincial election. At this same time, they claimed they would start reducing their dependence on handouts from crown corporations such as ICBC and BC Hydro.
In their final days, the outgoing government claimed that the ICBC deficit was in the range of $11 million. However, following their election to power, the NDP government has claimed this deficit is more in the range of $1.3 billion.
What’s happening now?
For their part, ICBC says the number of crashes and resultant claims across the province keep rising, which it says cost the corporation money. For this reason, and to end the financial crisis at ICBC, they and the B.C. government plan to introduce elements of no-fault type auto insurance which caps payouts for pain and suffering for ‘minor injuries’ at $5,500.
While ‘minor injury’ has yet to be legally defined, the B.C. government has stated (emphasis added):
“The foundation for the new legal definition for what constitutes a minor injury in B.C. lists abrasions, contusions, lacerations, sprains and strains, pain syndrome, psychological and psychiatric conditions or an injury in a prescribed class of injury, even if chronic […]”
The suite of changes proposed by the B.C. government is intended to drastically reduce the incentive to file claims against ICBC.
How does this affect you?
An injury cap of $5500 is the maximum amount of compensation and treatment that can be provided to an individual who has been injured in an MVA and who sustained a “minor injury” which includes damage to a particular part of the body or a particular assessed condition. For example, under this system, anyone with an injury within the definition of “minor injury” such as soft-tissue damage in their back would be likely to receive the exact same amount of compensation and treatment, regardless of their time lost from work, personal circumstances or their individual extent of pain and suffering.
What’s the problem with capping ‘minor injury’ claims?
The right of an individual to recover general damages from the wrongdoer in MVA cases has been a vital hallmark of our justice system. Minor injury caps are not merely a change to the insurance policy, they strip civil rights that have been in place for generations by:
- Treating each injury claim as a number, instead of considering that every person, and every claim is unique.
- Ignoring that it can often take months or years after an accident to clearly realize the true extent of injury and pain, and/or long-term impairment.
imposing legal and insurance definitions on MVA victims, including those suffering from chronic physical and/or emotional pain.
- Disproportionately affecting individuals with lower incomes. Challenging a claim under a cap system will likely cost much more than under the current system, resulting in a scenario where justice may be out of reach for many British Columbians.
- Harming vulnerable British Columbians while protecting bad drivers by ensuring they pay no more than $5,500. Rather than strip away the rights of road users, we should focus on collision prevention and education so that there are fewer injuries on BC’s roads!
Additionally, if the Government moves forward with its plans to put a cap on “minor injuries”, and you dispute that cap, your only recourse will be to appeal ICBC’s decision to a government tribunal – the Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT). We believe there are numerous problems with the CRT model, including:
- It will take longer and cost more.
- The system will be stacked against those injured in auto collisions.
- It is simply an extension of ICBC’s historical mismanagement.
- It is uncertain if an online CRT can be trusted to make fair and informed decisions about the impact of your injuries.
- It restricts the victim’s availability to be represented by legal counsel.
- It adds barriers and costs for an MVA victim before she or he is allowed to proceed to the system that is available to everyone in our current system.
- Finally, and importantly, all of this may do nothing to address the government and ICBC’s mismanagement that created this problem in the first place.
It’s just not fair.
The fault for ICBC’s increasing costs is poor management and poor driving. The Government’s efforts should be directed to solving these problems and not imposing a “no fault” type system on deserving MVA victims.
What can you do?
You can challenge the Government cap by writing to your MLA as soon as possible, and asking that they fight these changes.
You can also join ROAD BC’s (Rights Over Arbitrary Decisions for British Columbians) Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ROADforBC/) and read about the Civil Resolution Tribunal ( https://roadbc.ca/what-is-the-civil-resolution-tribunal/ ).
If you’ve been injured in an MVA, you should call us to commence a claim as soon as possible!
ICBC’s cap is scheduled to go into effect on April 1, 2019. People who have been in MVAs before that date have every right to be fairly and fully compensated for their claims.