Attorney General David Eby announces an overhaul of ICBC claims, Feb. 6, 2018. (Black Press)

B.C. VIEWS: Fixing the real problem at ICBC

Car insurance ‘dumpster fire’ mainly lawyer fees, neglected serious injuries

Attorney General David Eby has taken the most serious steps in 40 years to deal with the core problem at the Insurance Corporation of B.C.

He is doing what four previous B.C. governments wouldn’t do, which is change a system that rewards people for staying injured instead of getting better. And he’s staring down his fellow lawyers in the personal injury field, who have turned thousands of minor injury claims into winning lottery tickets for themselves and their clients, at the expense of people with serious disabilities from vehicle crashes.

A $5,500 cap on “pain and suffering” payouts is a necessary first step. And a civil resolution tribunal to assess minor injury claims without the slow and vastly expensive court system is equally important.

First, what’s a “minor injury” in all this? The exact legal definition is still in the works, but the attorney general’s ministry says it “will include things like sprains, strains, mild whiplash, cuts and bruises, anxiety and stress from a crash.” It won’t include concussions or other brain injuries, or broken bones, which can at least be shown on an X-ray.

Eby promises this determination will be made by independent medical experts, not ICBC or the government, and the tribunal will rule on disputes within 90 days, without lawyers.

ICBC management confirms what I described in this space last fall: the latest tactic of U.S.-style ambulance-chasing lawyers is to use B.C.’s two-year time limit for filing injury claims to maximum advantage.

Clients are encouraged to deal with the vehicle claim but hold off on the injury. Milk our naive “free” health care system with frequent doctor visits to build up a record of suffering and soft-tissue treatments. Continually emphasize the discomfort and anxiety that follows the crash, because there’s no x-ray machine that can disprove it. Start talking about “my accident,” as if it’s your new career.

Then, as the two-year deadline approaches, assemble the whole thick file into a lawsuit against ICBC, which currently is receiving new lawsuits at a rate of 60 a day. This is why suddenly emerging minor injury claims have morphed into an average cost of $450,000, with lawyers and experts just to settle them out of court.

Eby deserves full credit for his other major move, which is to take the money being siphoned off for minor injuries and use some of it to double the maximum benefit for serious injury and death, from $150,000 to $300,000. Incredibly, this is the first increase since 1991 for people whose lives are actually devastated by a crash.

What it means, says Jane Dyson, executive director of Disability Alliance B.C., is that someone who is a quadriplegic as a result of a vehicle accident can actually afford to replace his or her electric wheelchair every few years.

Unfortunately, the minor injury cap doesn’t take effect until April, 2019. Stand by for a gold rush of questionable personal injury claims in the meantime.

And Eby’s formula contains a flaw that could prove fatal to the whole exercise. The “minor injury” assessment has a one-year deadline. The ministry explains it this way:

“If, after 12 months, a customer continues to have serious impairment from the injury, or has significant inability to care for themselves, it would no longer be considered minor and would not be subject to the limit for pain and suffering payouts.”

The last NDP government discovered 20 years ago what happens to welfare rolls when the rate is raised and eligibility is eased. More people opt for a free ride than you expect. They may soon get a similar lesson in human nature.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Flood threat increases at Nelson’s waterfront

Peak expected between May 30 and June 1

MP Cannings’ long-awaited wood-use bill passes in House vote

The private member’s bill is his first to pass the House, a rare feat for rookie MPs in opposition

LETTER: Causing any species to go extinct is a crime

‘The earth is not dying. It is being killed’

COLUMN: A look back at May, 1968

Greg Scott: Touchstones of Nelson

L.V. Rogers grads shine spotlight on talent at annual fundraiser

Show set for Tuesday, May 29 at the Capitol Theatre

Black Press Media to launch Pipeline Full of Controversy series

Series covers Trans Mountain’s history, science, Indigenous reaction, politics and economics

B.C. RCMP swoop in to save injured eagle

An eagle with a broken wing now in a recovery facility after RCMP rescue near Bella Coola

Bug spray 101: Health Canada wants you to stay bite free

Health Canada is reminding Canadians to use bug spray and other insect repellents safely

Unions reject CP Rail contract offers

Both meeting Friday to determine next steps; 72 hours notice required before strike action.

B.C. jewellers warn public about fake gold scam

‘They are playing on people’s sympathy and their greed’

Former B.C. premier says pot industry about to enter Wild West

Mike Harcourt says Canada is about to enter a new gold rush with many dreaming of striking it rich

Hunt continues for two suspects in Ontario restaurant explosion

The explosion left 15 people injured, but all victims have now been released from hospital

B.C. teacher charged with sexual offences involving two teens

Henry Kang, 50, of Abbotsford charged with two counts each sex assault and sexual exploitation

Toronto Raptors star to hold basketball camp in B.C.

DeMar DeRozan is hosting a four-day camp for players aged 6-16 at the University of Victoria

Most Read