During the first of April, the 6.3 percent boost in insurance rates for most in British Columbia was perhaps expected. This amounted to an increase of $60 in the average annual insurance bill. But that hike alone would not have been enough to balance the budget at the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC). Instead, the provincial crown corporation also instituted limits on how much it pays for insurance claims.
Payouts for pain and suffering for minor injuries are now capped at $5,500. Such payments are described by ICBC as “recognizing the inconvenience and emotional distress of being in a crash.” Issues with injury payouts valued at $50,000 or less will be handled by a civil resolution tribunal. The tribunal does not require legal representation.
The move is expected to save ICBC about $1 billion per year. ICBC president and CEO Nicolas Jimenez told CTV news, “If we hadn’t made this change we would have seen a 40 per cent increase in rates this year.” The government approved this change last year after the auto insurer reported about $2.2 billion in losses in the past two years.
The move is proving contentious to the Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia (TLABC), which represents over 1,500 legal professionals in the province. They plan on mounting a constitutional challenge in BC Supreme Court. They’re concerned about how the new rules may be violating the Charter of Rights and Freedoms by unduly restricting access to the courts.
Former attorney-general and BC premier Ujjal Dosanjh, who is now a lawyer, supports the legal action by TLABC. He released a press release detailing his concerns about how the changes impact “access to justice and charter rights of British Columbians.”
He continues, “I felt compelled to speak out as I do not believe this government has clearly understood or described the impacts of this legislation on the citizens of BC, especially those least able to advocate for themselves after an injury resulting from a road accident.”
Another issue is how the changes seem to discriminate against those with certain types of injuries. TLABC vice-president John Rice says, “If you suffer serious soft tissue injuries, a jaw injury, chronic pain … your injuries can be artificially capped for compensation. Whereas if you suffer a fracture, for example, a hairline fracture to your pinky, you have no such restrictions.”
Do you need more information on how these changes affect you or a loved one with an injury? Please contact us today.