Advocates, lawyers say ICBC minor injury caps could hit victims at their weakest

Attorney General David Eby's new legislation will negatively impact those injured on the road even if they are not at fault. Shouldn't changes to ICBC focus on reducing the 900+ car collisions in BC every day?

Advocates, lawyers say ICBC minor injury caps could hit victims at their weakest

Published on May 31, 2018 by Katya Slepian

Legal experts and disability activists alike are worried about the toll minor injury caps could take on vehicle collision victims in the province.

Ronald Nairne, of Burnaby’s Giusti Nairne law firm, takes issue with the victim of a car crash being treated differently than someone hurt in any other accident.

“Simply because I’m in a car, my damages are being limited,” said Nairne, who’s part of R.O.A.D. BC, a coalition of British Columbians who are committed to protecting the rights of anyone who becomes injured on our roads and ensuring accountability for ICBC.

He pointed out scenarios in which he’d have more options for redress if he wasn’t in a vehicle.

“If I go onto my neighbours property and there is a gigantic hole in (sic) the property that’s unsafe and I step in that hole and twist my ankle, fall down and hurt my back and sue my neighbour… the judge says that was unsafe, the neighbour’s responsible for that and you have a minor injury, I’m going to award you $25,000,” said Nairne.

“If I get that same exact injury, but I get injured in a rear-end accident, I’m only going to be eligible for $5,500.”

The province introduced the idea of minor injury caps for ICBC in February, as a way to cool the financial “dumpster fire” of the provincial auto-insurer and stem its losses, which the province said would amount to $1.3 billion this year.

Attorney General David Eby said that the caps are supposed to save ICBC a much-needed $1 billion a year as annual injury claims have risen from $3 billion in 2014 to almost $4 billion in 2017.

The province defines a “minor injury” as an abrasion, contusion, laceration, a pain syndrome or a psychological or psychiatric condition that does not result in a serious impairment or a permanent serious disfigurement of the claimant.

An Attorney General spokesperson said that all conditions, from “cuts to psychological and psychiatric conditions resulting from a collision can vary in impact, from minor to severe” and that each would be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

READ MORE: ICBC rates could go up 30 per cent by 2019: report

But the CEO of the People in Pain Network explained capping minor injury costs only takes advantage of people when they’re at their weakest.

“I just worry about the fact that people can look really well and be really suffering.

“I just think that there’s going to be a lot of people caught in no-man’s land,” said Devine.

The People in Pain Network works with people who have chronic pain and Devine said that’s the group she’s most worried about with the new rules.

The province defines a minor injury as an abrasion, contusion, laceration, a pain syndrome or a psychological or psychiatric condition that does not result in a serious impairment or a permanent serious disfigurement of the claimant.

“People have a lot of trouble now getting doctors to believe that they chronic pain, never mind if you add a complication to the situation and make it more difficult for people to get the help that they need,” said Devine.

She’s worried that minor injuries could grow into major conditions.

However, a ministry spokesperson said that “at any point during recovery, a medical professional can determine if an injury diagnosis, including a mental health injury due to a collision, has changed and should no longer be considered minor.”

While Devine agrees that’s a good step, she wonders how it would turn out in reality.

“If they decide that this is a minor injury and it turns out not to be, the hoops and the process that they have to go through to get it reclassified is in a lot of cases really overwhelming for people,” she said.

“Or it would be denied and denied and denied and years go by and the window to improve their condition is lost.”

An Attorney General spokesperson said that collision related victims can challenge ICBC’s decision “at the independent Civil Resolution Tribunal and have the matter resolved in months, not years.”

Read the full story on Surrey Now here


Reasonable Doubt: How will new B.C. laws affect ICBC and you?

Despite growing vocal opposition, two bills quietly became law that fundamentally changes the rights of anyone who gets injured on BC roads—whether they are drivers, passengers, cyclists, transit users, or pedestrians.

Reasonable Doubt: How will new B.C. laws affect ICBC and you?

Published on May 25, 208 by Kevin Yee

Dumpster fire! $1.3 billion lost! It’s been several months since we first saw these jarring headlines about ICBC. Since then, this news story has fallen off the front pages.

But last week, two bills quietly became law. They are game changers. They fundamentally change the rights of anyone who gets hurt using our roads—whether they are drivers, passengers, cyclists, transit users, or pedestrians.

First, let me explain the system we have today. Right now, anyone hurt in a car accident in B.C. can seek certain benefits from ICBC. Often, these benefits help offset medical costs. But I want to focus on another type of claim because that is where the controversy is.

Right now, if the injured person is not at fault for the accident, they can also seek damages. This can include compensation for pain and suffering and for lost wages. Like any dispute, this claim pits one side against the other. It is up to both sides to try and resolve the dispute. ICBC may offer a certain amount and the injured person may agree to it. But with two opposing sides, you will get disagreement at some point. It’s overly simplistic and just plain wrong to blame one side for these disputes. Claimants aren’t inherently greedy or fakers. Let’s not forget that they are the victims injured in the accident. That said, ICBC isn’t inherently unfair. Without a court order, ICBC isn’t required to pay whatever it is that the claimant seeks.

If the two sides are deadlocked, the claimant can take their case through the courts. That’s when an ICBC claim becomes a lawsuit. The court process gives claimants the opportunity to make their case and gives ICBC (and drivers being sued) a chance to respond.

The vast majority of lawsuits settle without going to trial. That’s because, along the way, parties negotiate with a better sense of the risks of trial. If it goes to trial, both sides can present evidence and let the court decide on what’s fair. When deciding, the courts are guided by previous decisions of similar court cases. This is how the typical personal-injury lawsuit is handled right now.

So what’s changed? With the passing of Bill 20 and Bill 22 last week, your ability to seek fair compensation has undergone a fundamental shift. This applies to anyone injured in a car accident in B.C. from April 1, 2019, onwards.

The new law introduced a cap on compensation for cases falling under the definition of a “minor injury”. This definition is not a medical definition. It’s created by the bill itself. ICBC will decide whether this definition applies to you.

Bill 20 defines an injury as “minor” if there is no permanent serious disfigurement and if any physical or mental impairment is resolved within 12 months of the accident. Again, this threshold of 12 months isn’t a medical definition. It’s set by the government and can be changed without further public debate.

The definition of a “minor injury” specifically includes pain syndromes and psychological conditions. The list of syndromes and conditions labelled as “minor injuries” can be expanded by the government without further debate.

If ICBC deems your injuries as minor in this new system, your damages are capped. This cap is for nonpecuniary damages—compensation for a person’s loss in general, such as their pain and suffering and their loss of enjoyment of life. The government announced it will cap this at $5,500; this can change without further debate.

If ICBC decides your injuries are minor, your fight with ICBC will be drastically different. Instead of court, you will go to the B.C. Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT). I wrote about the CRT when it was first introduced in 2015 and then to follow up with its chair, Shannon Salter, in 2017. That was back when the online tribunal handled strata disputes instead of personal-injury cases. Now the CRT will also decide whether to uphold ICBC’s designations of minor injuries.

There’s another aspect of the CRT that is important. On top of the damages cap for pain and suffering of “minor injuries”, the CRT has a limit on what it can award in total when determining all other damages (e.g., lost wages). The government announced the CRT’s limits as $50,000; they can change this as well without any more debate.

Let’s say a claimant fights ICBC and convinces the CRT to overturn a designation of “minor injury”. Then, the damages cap on pain and suffering doesn’t apply. They will still be up against this CRT limit on total damages. If the claimant’s case justifies compensation beyond that CRT limit, then the only way to get that full amount will be to go through the courts. But hold on. It would be the CRT that decides whether to allow the claimant to continue their claim in the courts.

I suppose it’s tempting not to care about these changes. After all, no one is directly affected right now. This only affects people injured in accidents beginning next April. We don’t know who they are—the accidents haven’t happened yet. And no one ever expects to get in an accident. But, sadly, those accidents will happen. For those injured in them, they’ll see firsthand how their right to fair compensation has been affected.

Remember, all these changes were supposed to address ICBC’s financial losses. Labelling injuries as minor, capping damages, and requiring the CRT may help cut ICBC’s losses or it may not. Assuming that it does, will these changes correct a wrong that was the root of ICBC’s financial problems? Or are they just a Band-Aid fix for some greater problem? If it’s the latter, then the real question will be whether this will all be worth it.

A word of caution: you should not act or rely on the information provided in this column. It is not legal advice. To ensure your interests are protected, retain or formally seek advice from a lawyer.

Read the full story in The Georgia Straight here


Capping damages

Capping injury claims does nothing to prevent the over 900 car collisions in our province every day. Changes to ICBC should focus on reducing the number of car collisions rather than negatively impacting those already injured.

Capping damages

Published on May 22, 2018 by Elizabeth Raymer

Non-pecuniary damage caps are widely used across Canada, but personal injury lawyers say accident victims are paying the price.

It’s been 40 years since the Supreme Court of Canada released its trilogy of rulings that affected the way non-pecuniary damages have been awarded in Canada. Fearing an escalation in damages awards, those rulings limited the maximum amount of non-pecuniary damages a plaintiff could receive in a civil action.

Most jurisdictions in Canada have seen caps placed on claims in motor vehicle accidents, through provincial or territorial insurance legislation. British Columbia has been the last remaining jurisdiction in Canada to operate on a pure tort system, with no caps set on damages except for what the Supreme Court set in its trilogy in 1978, says Ron Nairne, a partner at personal injury firm Giusti Nairne in Vancouver and vice president of the Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia.

But in February, the B.C. government announced it would cap pain and suffering claims for minor injuries in motor vehicle accidents at $5,500, which members of the personal injury plaintiffs’ bar in the province oppose. In Ontario, changes to the Insurance Act in 2016 saw benefits paid to accident victims reduced “dramatically,” says Patrick Brown, a partner at McLeish Orlando LLP in Toronto.

And elsewhere in Canada, plaintiff-side lawyers agree that caps on minor injury claims can place undue hardship on plaintiffs and may not consider the effects of minor injuries over time.

In British Columbia, the new NDP government’s announcement that it will introduce a cap on minor injury claims in automobile accidents was a result of a financial crisis at the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, a provincial Crown corporation that provides basic auto insurance for British Columbians. In 2014 and 2015, Nairne says, there was a 23-per-cent spike in the motor vehicle accident rate in B.C., which had a negative impact on the bottom line of insurers. The ICBC’s loss for this fiscal year is now expected to be $2.2 billion “when only months earlier they had announced an [anticipated] loss of $300 million,” says Nairne.

The Trial Lawyers Association of B.C. and about 70 health-care providers and individuals opposing the proposed cap have banded together in a coalition called ROAD BC — or Rights Over Arbitrary Decisions for British Columbians.

“We’re saying have an independent review,” Nairne says. The B.C. government has benefited from the ICBC’s revenues, and, he adds, “one of ICBC’s more dubious assumptions is that accident rates will continue to increase.

“Our fundamental philosophical opposition to what the government has announced is [that] the effect is to shift financial burdens to people who are injured rather than the bad drivers who caused the accident,” Nairne says. “That’s fundamentally wrong and at odds with the tort system and with what the government says it wants to do — reduce bad driving.”

In Ontario, McLeish Orlando’s Patrick Brown says that fatality rates due to motor vehicle accidents reached a record high in 2017, at least in part due to the increase in pedestrians and bicyclists in cities such as Toronto and the speed of vehicles. “Toronto is less car-free in its urban core than other cities,” he notes.

Last September, NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo introduced a private member’s bill designed to prevent injuries and deaths among vulnerable road users including cyclists, pedestrians, people in wheelchairs, emergency responders on the road and road construction workers. The bill was supported by a coalition of citizens’ and bicyclists’ groups. Days earlier, Brown, a member of the coalition, had spoken at a press conference, calling on the attorney general to follow several U.S. jurisdictions in implementing a vulnerable road user law. The initiative did not meet with success.

“If you kill a pedestrian with your car, there’s a huge likelihood that you won’t be charged; though if you are, [you] will walk away with a $500 fine,” says Brown.

Injuries from motor vehicle accidents in Ontario are classified as minor, non-catastrophic and catastrophic, and 85 per cent of claims are for minor injuries, Brown says. In 2010, minor injuries were capped at $3,500, but in 2016, insurers said, “we want to lower the benefits available for serious injuries” as well, Brown says.

“Before 2016, a person who was catastrophically injured . . . had $2 million worth of benefits to pay for medical rehabilitation and attendant care” and loss of income. That cap was then lowered to $1 million. The cap for non-catastrophic injuries, which had been $100,000, was reduced to $65,000, he says.

Brown says the push to lower caps, driven by the insurance industry and supported by the government, is due to most of the driving public wanting low insurance premiums and insurers’ concern for their bottom lines. But an insurer’s profitability is also dependent on how efficiently the company is run, Brown says. “A lot of people feel that before you start attacking benefits, why not look at the efficient companies, which are operating at a profit,” by effectively employing new technologies, for example.

“The easy solution is to cut benefits, but it’s not the right solution.”

In Alberta, the last tort reform was implemented in 2004 and the cap for minor injury claims set at $4,000, says James Cuming, managing partner of Cuming & Gillespie in Calgary. With annual increases for inflation, the cap is now $5,080, he says. Prior to 2004, Alberta had an open tort system with “no restrictions whatsoever,” consistent with other jurisdictions, Cuming says.

Following the implementation of the cap for minor injuries, “approximately 85 per cent of claims fell into the cap and were removed from the system without any litigation being pursued,” says Cuming, owing to the cost of litigation. Accidents benefits have given individual plaintiffs direct access to treatment and payment for minor injuries, he says.

Alberta is currently reviewing its minor injury regulations in a process that began a few years ago, and “there is extreme pressure from insurers to modify the cap and make it more restrictive by definition, as opposed to financially,” Cuming says. “It appears the goal of the insurers would be to exclude the psychiatric injuries, TMJ [temporomandibular joint] injuries and chronic pain arising from soft-tissue whiplash-type injuries.” He anticipates the province’s regulations will be amended in the not-distant future.

Raymond Wagner’s law firm, Wagners, handles personal injury cases in Nova Scotia as well as Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. The Maritime provinces have seen two sets of caps for minor injury claims, the first in 2003. A “more liberal regime” was introduced in Nova Scotia in 2010, in New Brunswick in 2013 and in P.E.I. in 2014, Wagner says, with the minor injury claim cap set at $7,500 (now higher with inflation).

Few of these minor injury cases make it to court, Wagner adds, and they are usually settled through settlement conferences, mediations and straight negotiations with insurance adjusters.

Although it’s not a big jump distance-wise from Prince Edward Island to Newfoundland, that province has a rather different insurance scheme for motor vehicle accidents than do its Atlantic neighbours. But while there are currently no caps on claims in Newfoundland and Labrador, that may be about to change.

The government there has reportedly asked its Public Utilities Board to review all aspects of its motor vehicles insurance program, says Ernest Gittens, senior partner in Gittens & Associates in St. John’s. “Are the rates appropriate? Do we need to rein in the payment of injury awards to collision victims?” Gittens says these questions appear to have been prompted by the taxi industry, which claims its premiums have gone up substantially.

Back in 2004-2005, he says, when these same questions arose, the insurance industry could convince the other Atlantic provinces that it was necessary for them to put caps on claims for the survival of the industry. What followed in those provinces was the cap of $7,500 for a minor injury. But in Newfoundland and Labrador, during the premiership of Danny Williams, the government decided to instead go with a $2,500 car insurance deductible.

Benefits paid in motor vehicle accidents have ranged from $5,000 to $10,000 of compensation for minor injuries to $30,000 to $40,000 for injuries that require more medical treatment and last for years. “They’ll be the ones most affected by the proposed cap,” Gittens says.

Like other plaintiff-side personal injury lawyers interviewed for this report, Gittens is concerned about the impact of caps on plaintiffs, and the profit margins of insurance companies.

In 2015, he says, there were about 50 insurers in Newfoundland and Labrador, and the premiums they charged drivers amounted to $417 million to $418 million. About 16 insurers cover most of the premiums, he says, “but it’s really only four companies providing 84 per cent of the coverage in the province. . . . Seventy-seven per cent of the premiums paid was what it took to cover the claims that were made. You end up with the industry making about 23 per cent on the $400-plus million for the industry.”

On the flip side, he says, there is no organized movement of injured people, and he wonders who will give the Public Utilities Board information on the impacts on individual claims of capping or increasing the deductible.

In Nova Scotia, Wagner notes, the under- and unemployed — “the people on the financial margins of society” — have been most affected by the caps on claims. “They don’t have disability [benefit] plans. . . . This is one of those so-called tort reforms that really impact people who can least afford to be further marginalized.”

Read the full story on Canadian Lawyer here


UNPOPULAR OPINION: Here’s why the changes to ICBC’s injury claims are… not good

 

UNPOPULAR OPINION: Here’s why the changes to ICBC’s injury claims are… not good

Published on May 16, 2018 by Kyla Lee

Now that the BC Government has passed the amendments to the Insurance Vehicle Act, the clock begins to count down for those who want a fair insurance claim. And after the legislation is enacted and in force and effect, British Columbians with accident claims will lose their ability to access justice.

The changes to ICBC’s governing legislation in British Columbia remove many cases from the courts. The Insurance Vehicle Act has been amended to divert insurance claims from the court to British Columbia’s Civil Resolution Tribunal.

The Civil Resolution Tribunal is designed to adjudicate small claims cases where the value of the claim is $5000 and under. However, pursuant to the Civil Resolution Tribunal Act, the dollar value of claims the tribunal may hear is prescribed by regulation. This means that it can be changed with very little difficulty, almost at any time by Government.

The use of regulations is not unintentional or by accident. It was very carefully designed this way. And the reason why becomes apparent when one looks at the provisions of the Insurance Vehicle Act that have now been passed by the BC Government. In the changes, the statute gives the power to adjudicate claims for “minor injuries” to the Civil Resolution Tribunal.

The definition of minor injury is as follows:

“minor injury” means a physical or mental injury, whether or not chronic, that

(a) subject to subsection (2), does not result in a serious impairment or a permanent serious disfigurement of the claimant, and

(b) is one of the following:

(i) an abrasion, a contusion, a laceration, a sprain or a strain;

(ii) a pain syndrome;

(iii) a psychological or psychiatric condition;

(iv) a prescribed injury or an injury in a prescribed type or class of injury;

And while at first glance it may seem fine to have a tribunal adjudicate claims involving injuries worth $5000 or less, it is not conceivable that psychological or psychiatric conditions or pain syndromes are generally worth less than that amount. However, we know that ICBC will push for these claims to be litigated under the Civil Resolution Tribunal.

There is existing legislation already in place that requires that all small claims actions proceed through the jurisdiction of the tribunal. And even if the injured person files their claim in BC Supreme Court, there are consequences in the new legislation, which states:

If a party brings or continues any proceeding in the Supreme Court in respect of liability and damages in relation to an accident and the settlement or award is less than the tribunal limit amount, the costs, including disbursements, that may be ordered are limited to an amount that would have been permitted in the tribunal proceeding by order of payment of expenses under section 49 [order for payment of expenses].

Any lawyer with knowledge of this area of law knows that court costs are significant, and recovering only those court costs that would be payable in the tribunal is likely to make any award for damages completely eliminated by virtue of the additional costs.

But the really disturbing part about this that no one has been paying much attention to is how the ability to prescribe by regulation flows together. Not only can regulations enacted by the BC Government increase the amount of the Civil Resolution Tribunal’s jurisdiction but the definition of minor injury can also be amended by regulation.

What this means is that if Government does not like the fact that too many claims are being paid out for a particular type of injury, say, a broken leg, it can call a broken leg a “minor injury” by enacting a quick regulation and suddenly those who have suffered a broken leg are left without a remedy in court. Instead, they are at the mercy of the Civil Resolution Tribunal.

And there are more troubling changes to the Civil Resolution Tribunal legislation that should have the public gravely concerned. The enabling statute has been amended to state explicitly that the tribunal is an expert tribunal in any area where the legislation states they have specialized expertise.

Care to hazard a guess about one area in which a tribunal that has heretofore not dealt with motor vehicle accident claims has specialized expertise? If you guessed motor vehicle accident claims, you are picking up on this disturbing trend.

The specialized expertise designation is of particular importance when considering the ability to appeal decisions of the tribunal. These appeals are known as judicial review.

Under the rules of administrative law, a tribunal with specialized expertise is supposed to be afforded substantial degrees of deference. This means that judges cannot overrule their decisions unless there is a clear error or a clearly unreasonable finding. Moreover, the court is required to defer to the tribunal’s own interpretation of the law in areas where it has specialized expertise. So if the tribunal says that “depression and anxiety” are “psychological conditions” that constitute minor injuries, a court cannot interfere with that finding unless it is unreasonable, even if there are other reasonable interpretations that say otherwise.

Anyone with even an iota of knowledge about mental illness knows that John’s depression and Jane’s depression can be very different beasts. And yet under the changes to the insurance law in British Columbia, John’s depression and Jane’s depression can be interpreted as the same.

It does not end there. In British Columbia, there is a bothersome piece of legislation called the Administrative Tribunals Act. This statute makes it harder to show that a tribunal which is enacted under the Act acted unreasonably. Legislating around the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision that reasonableness is what a court should consider, the Administrative Tribunals Act imposes a burden on an applicant for judicial review to show that a decision was patently unreasonable.

This is helpfully defined in the legislation as follows:

For the purposes of subsection (2) (a), a discretionary decision is patently unreasonable if the discretion

(a) is exercised arbitrarily or in bad faith,

(b) is exercised for an improper purpose,

(c) is based entirely or predominantly on irrelevant factors, or

(d) fails to take statutory requirements into account.

So even if the decision was legally unreasonable, and even if no well-informed adjudicator could come to that conclusion, the decision of the Civil Resolution Tribunal over accident claims can only be overturned by a court if there was misconduct, arbitrariness, an improper purpose, or if it was irrelevant or outside the statutory requirements.

While it is foreseeable that some cases may well meet this standard, most decisions that are blatantly wrong will simply not rise to the defintion set out in the Administrative Tribunals Act for judicial intervention.

And all of this is set against a backdrop of a sixty-day limitation period, meaning that a person only has two months from the time of their accident claim to seek a judicial review of the decision. This is an extremely short period of time, taking into consideration the fact that inevitably people who have bona fide mental illness as a result of their accidents will be swept up in this mess.

Remember too that the tribunal also has the right to decide whether a claim is within its jurisdiction, which means that even the determination of whether a case should be heard by the tribunal is subject to judicial review on this very high standard.

It is inevitable that the law will be constitutionally challenged. But history tells us that constitutional challenges to the shifting of traditional court processes to administrative tribunals have been largely unsuccessful.

The BC Government has passed legislation that is deeply flawed. And while the attention paid to this has, by and large, surrounded the definition of minor injury the legislation is significantly more problematic when it is viewed in context with other pieces of legislation that function around it.

The result will be that those who have accident claims in BC are denied justice. And that is simply wrong.

Read the full story on Vancouver Is Awesome here


New index measures quarterly premium rate trends in Canadian personal lines

If you think caps on "minor injury" claims will lower car insurance rates in BC, think again.

Auto insurance rates in Alberta increased year-over-year 5.8% on average from Q1 2017, and that's with a cap.

New index measures quarterly premium rate trends in Canadian personal lines

Published on May 16, 2018 by Jason Constant

Applied Systems has released its Applied Rating Index, measuring the quarterly premium rate trends being experienced by consumers, brokerages and insurers across the Canadian market.

Stephane Lacasse, vice president of product management for Canada and rating products with Applied, told Canadian Underwriter in a briefing before the index’s release Wednesday that the rate insights will enable brokerages to provide guidance on expected premium rates during renewals and when evaluating new policies. For insurers, it will provide a data-backed reference point to determine competitive rates.

Calling it the “Canadian insurance industry’s only data-driven index to provide insight into premium rate change,” Applied said that the index measures average premium rates for personal auto and property lines of business on a quarterly basis. The report analyzes more than 1.3 billion quotes completed, measuring the increase or decrease in average premium rate trends across the country. Applied reports that the index, which is fully anonymized, represents more than 80% of the brokerage market and 675 insurer rating plans written by brokers.

“The Applied Rating Index depicts the best representation of how consumers are impacted by premium changes based on real consumer quotes,” Lacasse said. Other reports may report an average of premium changes for all insurers, Lacasse said, noting that this differs from Applied’s index, which represents the average of the top 3 insurers quoted to a consumer. In addition, other reports may have rate filings effective at different times, depending on insurers and may not accurately reflect premiums changes within the reported quarter.

In Q1 2018, average premiums for both personal auto and property lines increased compared to the same quarter in 2017. Notably, each province experienced an increase in both personal auto and personal property except for the personal auto lines in the Atlantic provinces and personal property lines in British Columbia. Key findings include:

Personal auto: In Q1 2018, personal auto premiums increased by 2.2% versus Q1 2017. Personal auto premiums declined -1.6% versus Q4 2017.
Personal property: In Q1 2018, personal property premiums increased by 2.9% vs. Q1 2017. Personal property premiums increased by 0.5% versus Q4 2017.
Provinces: Average premiums for personal auto and personal property increased in nearly all provinces over the past year.
Some provincial highlights (Q1 2018 premium rates compared to Q1 2017):

Personal auto premium rates in Alberta increased year-over-year 5.8% on average; personal property rates in Alberta increased 7.9% on average;
Personal auto premium rates in the Atlantic provinces decreased 2.5% on average, while the average increase in personal property was 5.5%;
Increase in personal auto in Ontario was 1.5%; personal property was similar at 1.6% increase on average;
In Quebec, personal property premium rates increased 0.1% year-over-year on average, while personal auto rates increased 5.2%;
B.C. saw an average 0.7% decrease in personal property rates;
Saskatchewan and Manitoba saw a 1.4% increase in personal property rates.

Read the full story on Canadian Underwriter here


Protest held outside the Surrey office of MLA Jinny Sims

More than 200 people attended a rally last week against injury caps – held outside the Surrey office of MLA Jinny Sims​. Attendees included psychiatrist Dr. Greg Passey, who is among a growing group of medical professionals speaking out against this legislation.

Protest held outside the Surrey office of MLA Jinny Sims


ROAD BC petition drop at Attorney General David Eby's office

Earlier this week, we delivered a petition to Attorney General David Eby's office, signed by thousands of concerned British Columbians. We join them in saying "no" to his decision to cap minor injury claims.

ROAD BC petition drop at Attorney General David Eby's office


NDP proposal puts profits over people

It’s Mental Health Week, yet David Eby’s decision to minimize the impacts of psychological or psychiatric conditions arising from collisions is a major step in the wrong direction.

NDP proposal puts profits over people

Published May 7, 2018 by Neil Godbout

Imagine if you were the truck driver involved in last month's horrific crash that killed 16 people on the Humboldt Broncos hockey team bus.

Or imagine if you were one of the first responders on the scene.

The likelihood of those people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other psychological effects requiring extensive and ongoing medical treatment is high.

Yet drivers and first responders could be treated completely different under proposed legislation.

If Cariboo-Prince George MP Todd Doherty's bill gets through committee in the Senate and is brought into law, Canadian first responders will get the attention they need to help cope in the aftermath of such tragedies.

Meanwhile, if the B.C. NDP successfully redefines the kinds of injuries ICBC is willing to pay after vehicle accidents, all psychological and psychiatric conditions connected to a crash will be deemed a "minor injury."

The B.C. Psychological Association is sounding the alarm on this ridiculous and potentially harmful change.

The government is defining a psychological and psychiatric minor injury as any condition that is resolved within a year of the accident and meets other criteria which they have not bothered to define yet, much like the proportional representation referendum question.

As the association rightly points out, the 12-month timeframe is an arbitrary limit not connected to health outcomes.

"The duration of symptoms after an event is not an appropriate scientific measure of the severity of the psychological injury," the association says.

Furthermore, this flies in the face of the medical literature which clearly shows that "psychological injuries are not minor injuries," much like concussions.

Each individual and each circumstance is different when it comes to symptoms and their severity.

Other factors, such as the extent of physical injuries sustained in the crash, pre-existing medical conditions and cultural background, also play a role.

As Darby Allen, the now-retired Fort McMurray fire chief told a Prince George audience during last month's Bob Ewert Dinner and Lecture, his own issues with depression and anxiety didn't manifest themselves until months after the worst of the fire.

And as anyone who continues to deal with mental health issues knows, people can feel better and be symptom-free but then relapse at a later date, just like cancer and many other physical conditions.

The NDP government has created an appeal process through the Civil Resolution Tribunal but the psychological association doesn't believe that's fair.

"Those suffering from psychological conditions are ill-equipped to deal with an appeal process on their own. It is also unlikely that many of those people will be able to have the assistance of a lawyer in this process," the association says.

"This process, online and/or in person, also puts at a disadvantage the elderly, people without computers or computer skills, those with poor English language skills, and those of limited means."

If the government cares more about the health of accident victims (often the same people paying the insurance premiums) and less about ICBC's profitability, the "minor injury" designation is unnecessary since the most important result (and cheapest solution) is timely treatment and recovery for those affected.

Psychological conditions brought on by vehicle accidents don't care who is at fault or to what extent.

In the case of the truck driver in the Humboldt crash, he deserves care for his physical and psychological injuries from the crash, regardless of the degree to which he may (or may not) be at fault.

Home insurance companies don't get to walk away from negligent homeowners who lose everything after they accidentally forgot to shut the stove off, nor should vehicle insurance companies get to do the same to drivers.

The provincial government doesn't worry much about home insurance because it isn't in that business but it wants to set terms on vehicle insurance because it owns the provider, an obvious conflict of interest.

Instead of letting the doctors, the lawyers, past precedent, the marketplace and what's right for the affected individuals dictate the outcome, the NDP jumps in because it knows what's best for everyone and will impose it on them, whether they need it or not.

If the NDP were still in opposition and the B.C. Liberals had decreed that psychological conditions resulting from vehicle crashes were minor injuries, John Horgan would have rightfully called the government heartless for putting profits over people and the insurance company ahead of the drivers paying the premiums.

There are plenty of problems with ICBC for Horgan and the NDP to fix.

This proposed change is just another problem, not a solution.

-- Editor-in-chief Neil Godbout

Read the full story at the Prince George Citizen here.


ICBC injury cap could punish victims instead of bad drivers: advocates

Those injured on BC roads as the result of reckless driving by bad drivers will only be victimized again by David Eby’s new injury cap legislation.

ICBC injury cap could punish victims instead of bad drivers: advocates

Published Sunday, May 6, 2018 by CTV Vancouver

As the province's public auto insurer undergoes its biggest overhaul in decades, some feel a part of the plan will penalize victims instead of bad drivers.

With more drivers on B.C. roads, the collision rate across the province is soaring. Nearly 900 crashes happen every day, and minor injury claims are on the rise.

These claims are among the factors blamed for the Insurance Corporation of B.C.'s projected $1.3 billion shortfall this year, along with legal costs and car repairs.

So in February, the province unveiled the most drastic overhaul of ICBC in decades, including a controversial cap on minor injury claims.

"We hope and are advised that this legislation might get ICBC back into the black, which means that the savings are in the neighbourhood of $1 billion," Auditor General David Eby said in February.

But demonstrators protesting the changes on Saturday said the savings come at a high cost.

"They're going after the victims instead of going after the bad drivers, so it's going to impact all of us," one of the protesters said.

The rally was hosted by the Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia and Rights Over Arbitrary Decisions for British Columbia, and held outside the Surrey office of MLA Jenny Sims.

The group has also published a petition asking the NDP government to reverse its decision on injury claim caps. As of the afternoon of May 6, it had been signed nearly 19,600 times.

Critics say the $5,500 cap on pain and suffering payouts for minor injuries, which will come into effect next year, isn't enough. Their concern is that victims of bad drivers will only be victimized again by the new legislation.

Babs Baird is still living with the effects of a soft tissue injury that developed months after her vehicle was rear-ended in 2015.

"I used to be riding horses, snowshoeing, biking, hiking… It's all gone. I can't do it anymore."

She said physical injuries like hers, as well as mental health issues that be triggered by crashes, can linger long after settlements.

"All of the stress and the pain that you go through… I don't think $5,500 is fair enough."

Baird and others gathered this weekend are calling on the province to change the rules before they take effect in April.

Read the full story via CTV Vancouver here.


British Columbia Psychological Association opposes the classification of psychological and psychiatric conditions as “minor injuries” in ICBC legislation

"Under Bill 20, any psychological or psychiatric condition arising from a motor vehicle accident is deemed to be minor." We join the BC Psychological Association in their opposition, as it will be detrimental to the health and care of British Columbians who sustain injuries in motor vehicle accidents.

British Columbia Psychological Association opposes the classification of psychological and psychiatric conditions as “minor injuries” in ICBC legislation

VANCOUVER, British Columbia, May 04, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The British Columbia Psychological Association opposes the inclusion of “a psychological or psychiatric condition” in the definition of “minor injury” in Bill 20. We feel it will be detrimental to the health and care of British Columbians who sustain injuries in motor vehicle accidents.

Under Bill 20, any psychological or psychiatric condition arising from a motor vehicle accident is deemed to be minor, unless it has not resolved within 12 months from the MVA, and also meets, as yet undefined, prescribed criteria.

BCPA disagrees and takes the positions that:

Psychological injuries are not minor injuries. Each individual is unique in their symptoms.

It is very difficult to determine the twelve-month outcome of a psychological injury as it may be affected by pain, restrictions in functioning due to physical injuries, and pre-accident history, including prior history of depression, anxiety, substance use, adverse early childhood experiences, including neglect and trauma, poor coping styles, and cultural factors.

The duration of symptoms after an event is not an appropriate scientific measure of the severity of the psychological injury.

Psychological conditions may arise at different times after a collision, depending upon a number of factors. Many potentially severe psychological conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety, may have an initial onset shortly after, or months after, a collision.

Psychological conditions may appear to resolve, only to recur at a later date due to a change in circumstance, prolonged recovery, or a triggering event such as a return to work, a return to driving, or anniversary of the collision.

Bill 20 gives Government the authority to make regulations with respect to assessment, diagnosis and treatment of minor injuries (including psychological injuries). Because of the unique circumstances of each individual, psychological injuries do not lend themselves to such an approach. Each individual must be assessed by a qualified psychology professional and prescribed the treatment that will best lead to an optimal recovery for them.

If the appropriate treatment is not commenced as psychological symptoms manifest, it may lead to prolonged suffering, delayed return to work, impaired activities of daily living, and in increased treatment and wage loss costs in the long run.

Removing psychological and psychiatric conditions from the “minor injury” designation will help achieve the goal of people receiving better care and optimal recovery in the shortest time possible.

BCPA is also concerned with the proposed amendments to the Civil Resolution Tribunal Act.

Under the Act, the determination of whether an injury is “minor” and the entitlement to benefits from ICBC, is exclusively given to the Civil Resolution Tribunal.

Those suffering from psychological conditions are ill-equipped to deal with an appeal process on their own.

It is also unlikely that many of those people will be able to have the assistance of a lawyer in this process.

This process, online and/or in person, also puts at a disadvantage the elderly, people without computers or computer skills, those with poor English language skills, and those of limited means.

BCPA applauds this government’s efforts to address the mental health and addictions issues of British Columbians, but classifying psychological and psychiatric conditions as “minor” runs the risk of taking a step back in the treatment of psychological injuries arising from a car accident.
About BC Psychological Association
The British Columbia Psychological Association (BCPA) and its members are committed to supporting the emotional health and psychological well-being of British Columbians. BCPA believes that all British Columbians deserve access to high-quality, clinically proven psychological care provided by Registered Psychologists.

For more information, contact:
Rick Gambrel
Executive Director
British Columbia Psychological Association
604-730-0501
rick.gambrel@psychologists.bc.ca