The British Columbia government is enacting a cap on pain and suffering claims for minor injuries caused by automobile accidents. The new $5,500 cap has been criticized by lawyers, rehabilitation centers and health care experts, who claim that the cap could penalize those who need medical care.

If you are involved in an accident, it’s important to understand your rights and benefits. Here are the facts regarding this recent change:

Your Legal Rights

  • The minor injury cap does not remove your right to receive counsel from a personal injury attorney when seeking further damages.
  • The $5,500 cap will be indexed to inflation; however, a person can still take the at-fault driver to court for additional compensation. British Columbia is the last province in Canada with a litigation-based insurance model.
  • The new cap will come into effect on April 1, 2019, and is expected to save ICBC $1 billion each year.
  • If you are involved in an accident before April 1, 2018, your claim will remain under the current system.

What’s Covered

  • The injuries considered “minor” are mild whiplash, aches, sprains, cuts, bruises, or anxiety. Broken bones and concussions are considered major injuries.
  • If your injuries persist beyond 12 months or prevent you from attending school or work, they will not be considered minor under the cap.
  • The cap only applies to awards for pain and suffering – not claims for rehabilitation, lost wages, or the need to hire a caregiver.
  • Your doctor will determine whether your injuries are minor – not ICBC. However, if an agreement cannot be reached, the agency will use an independent resolution process that is similar to those used for strata disputes.

Proponents of the cap state that it will reduce out-of-control legal costs and help offset some of ICBC’s crippling debt. However, B.C. Attorney General David Eby has not provided information about whether the agency would continue to lose money before the cap begins in 2018 – or whether premiums will rise for motorists.