The Trial Lawyers Association of B.C. has made its disapproval clear concerning changes coming from the Insurance Corporation of B.C. Starting April 1, ICBC intends to cap some minor injury claims at $5,000. Additionally, claims valued below $50,000 must be handled out of court in a Civil Resolution Tribunal. A letter from the Trial Lawyers Association to its members stated that the group was investigating legal options for challenging the ICBC caps on settlements.

Ron Nairne, the association president, said the caps potentially violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Section 15 that prohibits discrimination and section 96 that protects the jurisdiction of the courts appear likely to form the basis of any legal challenges that the association might make against ICBC. He said that waging a legal battle all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada was a possibility with the rights of accident victims to obtain fair insurance settlements at stake.

Attorney-General David Eby defended the settlement caps coming from ICBC due to the insurance corporation’s worsening financial state. He said that legal costs and rising claims coupled with financial losses at ICBC made the caps on some claims necessary. The latest ministry review of accident settlements determined that ICBC was making reasonable settlement offers.

Nairne countered government attempts to downplay the scope of the changes. He predicted that after April 1, ICBC would declare about 60 per cent of claims as minor and then another 20 per cent would be kept beneath the $50,000 level to further limit accident victims’ ability to litigate their claims. He described the new ICBC policies as a “pretty profound attack on the rights of individuals.”

As the Trial Lawyers Association plans a legal challenge, it will also launch a campaign to support defence lawyers who need to litigate cases that are being forced before a Civil Resolution Tribunal. Nairne wants to encourage the litigation of these cases to expose how the new ICBC policies will hurt accident victims.

A letter from the association indicated that more trials had already resulted from the ICBC’s recent reduction of existing settlement offers and refusal to negotiate. An overflow list at the Vancouver court registry showed eight accident cases.