VANCOUVER - The British Columbia government is moving to curtail lawyers and legal costs in the public auto insurance system by severely limiting injured people's ability to sue at-fault drivers or the auto insurer after a crash.
The government says legislation will be introduced in the coming weeks that will lower premiums at the Insurance Corporation of B.C. by about 20 per cent, an average of $400 in savings per driver.
At the same time, maximum care and treatment benefits for anyone injured in a crash would increase to at least $7.5 million, and those benefits will be available to every B.C. driver without having to hire a lawyer.
The province has announced plans for a major overhaul of ICBC that will see the public insurer move to a no-fault system. @richardzussman explains what today's announcement means to B.C. drivers. pic.twitter.com/K3bHPSBuqE— Global BC (@GlobalBC) February 6, 2020
If the legislation is passed it will take effect in May 2021 and will require ICBC to assist every person who makes a claim and ensure that they receive all their entitled care and benefits.
The government says that people can still sue at-fault drivers if they are convicted of a criminal offence linked to the crash, such as drunk driving, and they could also sue a vehicle manufacturer if a defect caused or contributed to the collision.
If a customer has a complaint about how ICBC handled their case, they can turn to the independent Civil Resolution Tribunal, the B.C. ombudsperson or the recently announced ICBC fairness officer.
Attorney General David Eby has previously called the financial situation at the public auto insurer a "dumpster fire," and the government believes this new system will free up more than $1.5 billion to lower rates by 2022.
Highlights of Enhanced Care coverage:
Government will introduce legislation to create the new care-based system, which would take effect on May 1, 2021, so that British Columbians will benefit from:
average savings of $400 on their premium, compared with the previous full-year policy;
care and treatment benefits that are 24 times higher than today, up to at least $7.5 million;
wage loss coverage that is 60% higher than today; and
new benefits – such as benefits for full-time students, caregivers, those working in the family business or those approaching retirement, who suffer income loss following a crash – replacing lump-sum payments that were previously awarded only through lengthy and expensive litigation.
Premier John Horgan –
“It’s time for change at ICBC. The old government ignored ICBC’s problems, allowing it to become a system that made lawyers rich, while drivers paid too much for insurance. We’re going to transform ICBC to lower rates for B.C. drivers – saving you an average of $400 on your insurance, while also improving care for people who have been injured in a crash.”
David Eby, Attorney General –
“You shouldn’t need a lawyer to access the benefits you’ve paid for. By removing expensive lawyers and legal fees from the system, we are making ICBC work for British Columbians again with more affordable insurance rates and much better coverage, so anyone injured in a crash gets the care they need.”
Christine Bradstock, CEO, Physiotherapy Association of BC –
“As physiotherapists, we often see patients who require longer treatment times in order to fully recover or get back to full function. With these changes, patients will have the peace of mind knowing that their care and treatment benefits will be there when they need them and for as long as they need to get better and return to their daily lives.”
Dr. Kathleen Ross, president, Doctors of BC –
“As physicians, our priority is to ensure that patients get the best possible care. The new care-based model provides significantly better coverage for people injured in traffic accidents through major increases in the level of medical care and supports for recovery. Doctors of BC looks forward to working with government and ICBC to help inform the transition to this enhanced care model.”
Similar care-based insurance systems exist in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Those systems have kept rate changes steady, near 0%.
Under Enhanced Care coverage, a driver who is responsible for a crash will continue to be found at fault. This will remain a primary factor in what drivers pay for their insurance. If a driver causes a crash, their premiums will go up.
Those injured by dangerous drivers convicted of certain Criminal Code offences, such as impaired driving, will still be able to sue for additional compensation.