“They are making the victim the problem by capping this,” said Louise Craig, spokesperson for ROAD BC.

“They are making the victim the problem by capping this,” said Louise Craig, physiotherapist and spokesperson for ROAD BC.

“The problem is not that person who is injured, the problem is the person who caused the car accident. I was surprised the focus was on taking the rights away on the person injured, without a lot of information on how they will address distracted driving, crashes and the causes.”

B.C. government to cap ICBC minor pain and suffering claims at $5,500

Published on: February 7, 2018 by Rob Shaw

VICTORIA — The B.C. government will cap pain and suffering claims for minor injuries in automobile accidents at $5,500, a contentious change to the province’s monopoly auto insurance structure that some lawyers, health care advocates and rehabilitation businesses say could penalize victims who need help after a crash.

Attorney General David Eby said Tuesday the reforms are designed to salvage the worsening financial crisis at the Insurance Corp. of B.C. by placing a limit on what a person in a minor auto accident can receive in compensation for pain and suffering, while at the same time raising the medical benefits they separately receive to improve overall care.

But the decision brought criticism from the Trial Lawyers Association of B.C. and a coalition of 50 health care providers that includes physiotherapists and pain management clinics called ROAD B.C.

“They are making the victim the problem by capping this,” said Louise Craig, a Vancouver physiotherapist and spokesperson for group Rights Over Arbitrary Decisions (ROAD) for British Columbians.

“It doesn’t make sense. The problem is not that person who is injured, the problem is the person who caused the car accident. I was surprised the focus was on taking the rights away on the person injured, without a lot of information on how they will address distracted driving, crashes and the causes.”

Craig said the government should first be moving to address the rising number of crashes and injury claims through road safety initiatives and crackdowns on high-risk behaviour like distracted driving. Eby said those broader changes are coming, with a consultation starting this spring to create a new structure of insurance premiums for those with bad driving histories, as well as a move to activate existing red-light intersection cameras to detect speeders.

“It will take years to get ICBC back under control,” said Eby. “Where we’re headed is to (make) rates affordable for British Columbians. Where we’re headed is to make sure the corporation is finally sustainable. That is the aim of reforms today.”

The $5,500 cap on pain and suffering for minor injuries will be indexed to inflation. But ICBC said a person can still sue an at-fault driver for additional compensation or financial losses, for example to get extra money for lost wages.

British Columbia is the last province in Canada with a purely litigation-based insurance model, where drivers not at fault in a crash sue the at-fault driver for economic loss and suffering.

The $5,500 minor injury cap is slightly higher than Alberta’s $5,020 threshold, but lower than New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, P.E.I. and Newfoundland. Quebec and Manitoba have full no-fault insurance, which prevents lawsuits. Saskatchewan has a dual system, with a $5,000 cap on the tort option.

The changes come into effect April 1, 2019, and are expected to save ICBC $1 billion a year. Accidents and claims that occur before then will remain under the current system, without a cap.

Trial Lawyers Association of B.C. CEO Shawn Mitchell said: “Today’s ill-advised policy announcement by government throws the rights of British Columbians on the ICBC dumpster fire.”

Canadian Bar Association B.C. branch president Bill Veenstra added, “The answer to ICBC’s current financial woes is not to place the burden on the shoulders of innocent victims.”

Minor injuries include mild whiplash, aches and sprains, cuts and bruises and anxiety. But if those injuries persist beyond 12 months and have a significant impact on work or school, they are no longer considered minor or under the cap. Broken bones or concussions are automatically considered major injuries.

Doctors will be allowed to determine if injuries are considered minor, not ICBC. However, if there is a dispute, ICBC will use a new independent dispute resolution process that mirrors a new civil resolution tribunal used to settle strata disputes.

This will reduce “out of control legal costs,” said Eby, that have risen 265 per cent since 2000.

The independent dispute resolution process is modeled after a Civil Dispute Resolution tribunal currently in place in B.C., that mainly handles small-scale issues like strata disputes.

“I have very little confidence that a tribunal that administers condo decisions about whether people have to pay condo fees are going to be equipped to make decisions that a Supreme Court judge struggles with,” said Craig. “It’s going to make it more of a mess than it already is.”

The Crown auto insurer is on track to lose $1.3 billion in the fiscal year ending March 31, as it faces a spike in claims, settlements and legal costs. Eby sidestepped repeated questions about whether ICBC would continue to hemorrhage money before the new cap comes into place in 2019, and whether additional auto insurance rate hikes are looming for motorists.

Under the current system, an average minor injury claim costs $30,038, of which $16,500 is paid for pain and suffering, $7,500 for wage loss and medical care and $6,038 for legal costs and expert reports.

To compensate for the cap, ICBC will increase the benefits that people injured in a crash can access for lost wages, health care and rehabilitation. Those benefits have not been increased since 1991, and the boost would also apply to those at-fault in a crash.

Read the full story in The Vancouver Sun: http://vancouversun.com/news/politics/b-c-government-to-cap-icbc-minor-injury-claims-at-5500

Government of B.C. recklessly chose to limit the rights of British Columbians

Today the government of B.C. recklessly chose to limit the rights of British Columbians based on ICBC’s so-called “financial dumpster fire”, despite repeated calls for B.C.’s Auditor General to conduct an independent audit of ICBC’s finances. Nearly 12,000 of you have signed a petition opposing this very policy, yet the government chose to disregard our voices and instead trust ICBC. The worst part? Our rights will be restricted, yet our insurance rates will continue to rise.

Government directs changes to make ICBC work for B.C. drivers again

Victoria Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The British Columbia government is directing changes for the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) to bring about an end to its financial crisis, while keeping rates affordable for B.C. drivers, Attorney General David Eby announced.

“ICBC was created to provide affordable insurance to all B.C. drivers, but years of reckless decisions by the previous government have thrown the corporation into financial chaos,” Eby said. “Today we start making the tough decisions that will stem ICBC’s losses, keep insurance affordable and provide enhanced care for people injured in automobile accidents. We’re going to make ICBC work for people again.”

Today’s changes come in the wake of multiple revelations about decisions and inaction by the previous government, leading to ICBC projecting a 2017-2018 net loss of $1.3 billion. B.C. drivers could face premium increases averaging $400 or more, if no action is taken.

“For too long, difficult decisions have been put off and growing financial problems at ICBC hidden from the public. The changes we’re initiating today will reduce ICBC’s claims costs by more than $1 billion every year, helping make it sustainable for decades to come,” Eby said.

Taking effect April 1, 2019, the changes include:

  • A new limit of $5,500 on pain and suffering for minor injury claims. The cost of those claims has increased 265% since 2000. British Columbia is the last province in Canada to take this kind of action.
  • The first major improvements in accident benefits in 25 years, dramatically increasing the care available for anyone injured in a crash, regardless of fault. The overall medical care and recovery cost allowance will be doubled to $300,000. This change will be made retroactive to Jan. 1, 2018, so it will effectively be in place to protect injured drivers and passengers immediately. See more on this benefit below.
  • An independent dispute resolution process for certain motor vehicle injury claims.

Together, these changes will reduce the amount ICBC spends on legal fees and expenses, which have grown to consume 24% of ICBC’s budget. The savings from this change, when coupled with other planned initiatives, will restore ICBC to financial sustainability and finance the planned accident benefit improvements.

Disputes over certain motor vehicle injury claims, including the classification of an injury, will be adjudicated by B.C.’s Civil Resolution Tribunal, an independent body that already adjudicates strata and small claims disputes in the province.

“We’re putting ICBC’s priority back where it should be — providing fair, affordable rates for British Columbians, and giving drivers peace of mind with appropriate care if they are in a collision,” Eby said.

Eby also announced that ICBC will be consulting with customers on major revisions to the corporation’s rate structure with the goal of ensuring good drivers pay less, and bad drivers pay more. The consultation will ensure rate structure changes are responsive to the interests of British Columbians and done with full transparency.

“British Columbians can no longer afford to keep paying more and more for their auto insurance every year, and this is the decisive and immediate action which is needed to relieve the pressure on ICBC’s rates,” said Joy MacPhail, chair, ICBC board of directors. “These changes make the injured customer our top priority, by redirecting payments away from legal costs into significantly enhancing the care and treatments for anyone who is injured in a crash.”

“Unbelievably, accident benefits haven’t been increased since 1991,” said Giovanna Boniface, national director of professional affairs for the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists. “B.C. occupational therapists have been helping injured drivers return to activities of daily living for decades and have seen declines in access to vital and necessary treatments for years. By raising the amount covered, and expanding the variety of treatments that are eligible, these changes will allow more people to have access to the treatment and adaptive equipment they need, thereby fostering quicker recovery and return to meaningful daily activities.”

“Disability Alliance BC has been advocating for improvements to accident benefits for 12 years,” said Jane Dyson, the DABC’s executive director. “The doubling of the overall allowance for medical care and recovery is a significant improvement. We welcome these long-overdue changes that will mean that people who are catastrophically injured in motor vehicle accidents have better supports available to help them rebuild their lives. Moving forward, DABC looks forward to continued dialogue with ICBC and government to help ensure that British Columbians accessing accident benefits receive the treatment and financial support they need.”

Accident benefit details:

  • Doubling the lifetime allowance for medical care and recovery costs for those catastrophically injured in a car accident from $150,000 to $300,000. Legislation will be introduced with the intention of making this benefit retroactive to Jan. 1, 2018, in order to start immediately helping seriously injured British Columbians.
  • Covering a greater variety of treatment services.
  • Significantly increasing the amount covered for treatments, so customers don’t have to pay out-of-pocket.
  • More than doubling wage loss payments to $740 per week, almost doubling home support benefits to $280 per week, tripling funeral cost coverage to $7,500, and increasing death benefits to $30,000.

Quick Facts:

  • Injury claims totalled $2.7 billion in 2016, an increase of 80% in the last seven years.
  • The average claim paid out for minor injuries has risen from $8,200 in the year 2000 to $30,038 in 2016, an increase of 265%.
  • At the same time, the average pain and suffering awards paid out for minor injuries have risen from $5,004 in 2000 to more than $16,499 in 2016.
  • Vehicle damage claims costs have increased 30% in just two years, to a total of $1.5 billion in 2016 alone.
  • Use of the CRT for minor injury dispute resolution means claimants who don’t use a lawyer will get to keep their entire settlement, rather than paying a portion of it to lawyer fees.
  • The use of the CRT for these disputes will also reduce ICBC’s legal costs, which account for 24% of the corporation’s total annual costs.
  • These costs are greater than the cost of running ICBC.

Learn More:

ICBC: icbc.com/change

B.C.’s Civil Resolution Tribunal: civilresolutionbc.ca

See the full press release here: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2018AG0003-000164

Capping ICBC payouts isn't the answer, says advocacy group

Caps on so-called “minor injuries” would lump all sorts of soft-tissue injuries into one category, creating a one-size-fits-all approach that would limit the care accident victims could access.

“Minor injury” is not a medical term. It’s an excuse for ICBC to cap injury claims and restrict access to care, without any guarantee that rates will actually decrease as a result.

Capping ICBC payouts isn’t the answer, says advocacy group

Posted Jan 30, 2018 by Tim James and Dave White

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The idea of capping ICBC payouts to people with minor injuries from a car crash is not welcomed by a group fighting for the rights of accident victims.

Attorney General David Eby says doing so could be a way to reduce the blow from losses projected to hit $1.3 billion at the Crown corporation.

“The government has spoken about minor injuries — lumping all sorts of soft-tissue injuries, from shoulder injuries to neck injuries to lower back injuries — into one category,” says Louise Craig, a physiotherapist who speaks for the group R.O.A.D B.C.

She fears a one-size-fits-all approach would limit the care patients can access.

“I think it will reduce the outcomes for those people, in terms of their productivity and returning to to work — and also their quality of life, from dealing with long-term problems that can arise from that approach.”

Eby many solutions need to be considered to put out what he calls a ‘dumpster fire’ of a financial situation at ICBC.

Read the full story at News 1130: http://www.news1130.com/2018/01/30/no-capping-icbc-payouts/

Bring back photo radar, former police chief suggests, to help stop ICBC financial bleeding

We should be looking at different ways to reduce the number of accidents. Drastic policy changes such as caps on minor injuries won’t do anything to prevent the 800+ crashes per day in BC. Punishing victims is not the answer.

Bring back photo radar, former police chief suggests, to help stop ICBC financial bleeding

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – With ICBC projected to lose more than $1 billion this year, one retired cop says we should bring back photo radar.

It’s a concept typically loathed by drivers, but former Delta Police Chief Jim Cessford argues it would generate revenue for the crown corporation, and save lives.

“We had it in Edmonton when I was with Edmonton Police. And we found that there was a dramatic decrease in the number of collisions, as a result of photo radar,” he tells NEWS 1130.

Cessford believes when people know they’re being watched, they drive more carefully.

“I know that there’s this whole notion that ‘It’s cash grab.’ Well, that’s true. Obviously, there are funds that are realized as a result of photo radar. That’s a side issue. The real issue is saving lives and we believe that photo radar did save lives.”

Yesterday, Attorney General David Eby announced several changes are in the works to cover off $1.3-billion worth of losses that he described as a “financial dumpster fire” set by the former BC Liberal government.

Eby says several options need to be considered to bring ICBC back into the black — likely meaning increases to basic rates and perhaps a cap on payouts for crash victims with minor injuries.

He’s also suggesting red light cameras will be set up across the province.

Read the full story here: http://www.news1130.com/2018/01/30/photo-radar-icbc/

ICBC shouldn’t decide what’s “minor" for you, and it certainly shouldn't decide what’s best for B.C.

Nearly 10,000 of you have voiced your concerns about our rights as British Columbians by signing R.O.A.D. BC’s petition – yet the news, as demonstrated by today’s top headlines – continues to be dominated by ICBC and its mismanagement. As concerned citizens, we urge the government to not only stand up for our rights, but also to step in and ensure a complete and independent review of ICBC is undertaken by BC’s Auditor General and shared fully with the public before any permanent actions are taken. ICBC shouldn’t decide what’s “minor” for you, and it certainly shouldn’t decide what’s best for B.C.

Mike Smyth: Shocking massive losses revealed at ICBC, huge rate hikes feared

Published: January 28, 2018 by Mike Smyth

British Columbia’s public auto insurer has driven over a financial cliff and the damage is far worse than anyone had feared or predicted.

On Monday, ICBC will announce a staggering projected operating loss of $1.3 billion for the current fiscal year.

That’s more than $1 billion higher than projected just three months ago.

The financial hemorrhaging — the Insurance Corp. of B.C. is losing $3.5 million a day — could force massive premium hikes on B.C. drivers, and possibly tilt next month’s balanced provincial budget into a deficit.

The tsunami of red ink is revealed in a series of jaw-dropping internal government documents that I obtained.

An ICBC “statement of operations” for the nine-month period that ended on Dec. 31 shows a “net loss” of $935 million, and a projected total loss of $1.29 billion by the end of the current fiscal year on March 31.

“ICBC’s year-end loss is now projected to hit $1.3 billion,” says a private briefing note prepared for Attorney General David Eby. “Now, B.C. drivers are looking at a rate hike of at least $400 more in their premiums by next year unless we take immediate action to keep rates more affordable.”

The shocking losses are much higher than what was projected just three months ago, when the fiscal year-end loss was pegged at around $200 million.

“The dramatic increase in losses has been driven by the emergence of many large, extremely costly claims,” the briefing note says.

Eby earlier ordered ICBC to conduct a fresh review of unsettled auto-accident claims, many stretching back years, and provide a financial update to the corporation’s board of directors.

“While the rise in the number of claims and the associated costs are not new issues for ICBC, what has been unexpected is the degree of the cost escalation from these claims and the significant number of older claims — dating as far back as 2010 — that are now extremely costly.”

The ICBC board — chaired by former NDP finance minister Joy MacPhail — got the bad news at a meeting on Thursday that a source described as a “shock-and-awe moment.”

The meeting was told many claims originally classified by ICBC as “minor” have emerged as more complex and costly files known as “large-loss claims,” a category that has grown 80 per cent in the past year, and which cost an average of $450,000 each to settle.

The briefing note prepared for Eby, the minister responsible for ICBC, blamed the previous Liberal government for the mess.

“Years of bad decisions and mismanagement by the former government have meant a fiscally unsustainable position at ICBC,” the briefing note says. “We never expected to find this level of mismanagement by the previous government.”

The New Democrats are slamming the Liberals for not acting on recommendations contained in a 2014 report by consultants Ernst and Young.

The report called on the government to impose a cap on large court-ordered financial awards paid to victims who suffer “minor” soft-tissue injuries like whiplash in auto crashes. British Columbia is the only province in Canada where such awards are still unlimited.

But the Liberal government stripped the controversial recommendation out of the report before passing it on to ICBC.

“The response from government was, ‘We’re not prepared to consider that,’” former Liberal finance minister Mike de Jong told Postmedia. “There was no point presenting it as an option.”

But now the NDP says the Liberals’ inaction has plunged ICBC into a financial crisis.

“If action was taken, this situation could have been prevented,” Eby’s briefing note says.

A source tells me the NDP government now feels it is forced to move forward with the cap on injury claims and several other “aggressive” moves to slow down ICBC’s financial losses.

The measures include a tougher crackdown on distracted driving, expanded red-light cameras at intersections, increased insurance premiums for bad drivers and new rules to prevent ICBC from getting ripped off by price-inflating auto-body repair shops.

The moves will be controversial, and have already sparked a backlash by personal-injury lawyers, who started a campaign to fight financial caps.

“ICBC wants a cap system to solve their financial woes, but punishing victims is not the answer,” says the R.O.A.D. (Rights Over Arbitrary Decisions) B.C. campaign.

But the government said only “drastic” measures will prevent large insurance rate hikes of up to 20 per cent on drivers.

“The amount of basic insurance premiums ICBC is collecting from customers is not covering the increasing amount they are paying out in basic claims costs,” says the Eby briefing note.

The note also slams the Liberals for taking more than $1.2 billion out of ICBC’s accounts and transferring the “excess capital” into government coffers.

“ICBC’s year-end loss is now nearly the amount the former government siphoned out of ICBC while ignoring the needs of B.C. families.”

A government source told me the massive ICBC losses have left Finance Ministry officials scrambling ahead of the provincial budget, to be presented on Feb. 20 by Finance Minister Carole James.

James promised a balanced budget, but the source told me officials are now studying the “implications” of the ICBC losses on the commitment.

Hang on to your wallets. This one could get uglier.

Read the full story in The Province: http://theprovince.com/news/bc-politics/mike-smyth-shocking-massive-losses-revealed-at-icbc-huge-rate-hikes-feared