ICBC Reforms Announced
Until now the law has been that negligent drivers, whether careless, drunk or distracted, have had to pay for the full extent of the damage that they cause to other users of the roadways. If the BC Government and ICBC implement the suite of changes that they announced on February 6, 2018, the legal rights of innocent victims to compensation will be severely limited. Attorney General David Eby announced that the Government plans to impose a $5,500 cap on claims for pain and suffering for “minor injuries”.
For context, in 1972 the Supreme Court of Canada set the cap for all pain and suffering claims, whether minor or catastrophic, at $100,000, indexed for inflation, which is now approximately $380,000. Since then hundreds of claims have been resolved in our courts and thousands more outside of court using that benchmark of reasonableness.
ICBC’s argument rests on a faulty premise: that truly “minor claims” are being compensated as “major claims” and that these out-of-control awards are bankrupting the system. Is there any evidence to support that assertion? Of course not, but that doesn’t seem to be troubling anyone in Government.
The Government plans to redefine a “minor injury” and if their goal is to save money we should expect them to cast as wide of a net as possible. It’s not a medical term. They haven’t settled on a definition, but they are floating the idea of capturing soft tissue injuries and anxiety that are not disabling beyond 12 months.
So if a distracted driver slams into your car from behind at a red light and leaves you with life-long neck and back pain, but you can power through the pain and get back to work, your injury may be considered “minor”. If a drunk driver hits a pedestrian in a crosswalk causing disabling injuries that keep you homebound for 11 months, your injuries may be considered “minor”.
This is unacceptable.
They have not yet figured out who will decide whether an injury is minor, except to say that it will be a “medical professional” (a doctor? A nurse on ICBC’s payroll?), nor have they sorted out what recourse a victim will have if they disagree with ICBC’s determination that their injuries are minor except to suggest that the Civil Resolution Tribunal, an online dispute resolution system whose adjudicators have no specialized training in this area, might play a roll.
Most importantly, they have no idea whether this will save any money.
It’s not too late to voice your opposition. If you or someone you know has been the victim of negligent driving, you know how wrongheaded these proposals are. The time to speak up is now, before it’s too late.
Visit www.roadbc.ca for more information and to sign the petition. Contact your MLA and say no to caps!