The NDP’s proposed cap on ICBC ‘minor injuries’
Here we go again. In 1996 the NDP was sold a bill of goods by ICBC. It claimed that if the rights of those innocently injured by bad drivers were not curtailed, premiums would skyrocket. Fortunately, under public pressure to take a common sense approach, the NDP government backed off. Instead, intense focus on traffic safety was undertaken. The logic was unassailable: if there is no collision in the first place, NO money need be paid out in claims. The common sense result was predictable and ICBC earned big profits year after year.
Before the long-suffering public might get a break from this success, along came the provincial Liberals. Obsessed with balancing BC’s books, it could not resist raiding ICBC’s surplus. Upon taking office in 2017, the rookie NDP cabinet was not equipped to deal with the theft from ICBC’s coffers. It went into panic mode just like Glen Clark’s NDP government did in the 1990s. Rather than stop and think, or even go to public safety and legal experts, it wrote a fat cheque to a major accounting firm to tell it what to do. The accountants in 2017 did the same thing as the outrageously expensive accountants did for the NDP government 20 years earlier. They mustered all the creativity and artfulness for which accountants are so well known. Raise premiums or take away rights of redress from the innocent, said the 2017 accountants in a report that resembles that of the 1996 accountants’ in page count and price tag (adjusted for inflation of course).
So here is what’s proposed. Imagine getting rear-ended by someone driving and texting. The driver barrels into you in an oversized luxury vehicle that seems large enough for military combat. You suffer soft tissue injuries that ICBC claims are ‘minor’, but you know your neck has never been the same. No more of your favourite sport, that’s for sure. All thanks to someone else’s selfishness and stupidity.
The young NDP government wants to strip you of your rights in the name of cost saving. Forget about the horrendous claims management for which ICBC has become synonymous. Forget about the frightening state of driver incompetence. Forget about the skyrocketing costs of repairing all those high-end luxury vehicles.
The NDP government is considering placing a cap on compensation paid to sufferers of ‘minor injuries’ in motor vehicle collisions. This attempt at saving costs for ICBC is not a plan motivated by fairness to policy-holders, or one with the safety of road users in mind.
An injury cap sets a maximum amount of money that can be paid to a victim of a vehicular negligence, based on damage to a particular part of the body or a particular assessed condition. Under this system, anyone with injury to the muscles and ligaments protecting the spine, for instance, would only receive a token amount of money, without regard for the dignity or extent of the innocent individual’s pain and suffering. The law in BC currently does not assess damages this way. In BC we take our quality of life seriously.
The accountants’ approach deserves the derogatory “meat chart” label. The accountants would identify the innocent victim’s damaged body part and assign a price, like buying a rib eye at the butcher’s shop. While some Canadian provinces have adopted a “meat chart” approach to automobile accidents, in contrast BC determines compensation on a case-by-case basis so that the individual victim is treated fairly according to personal circumstances. The common sense and just approach recognizes that no two people’s bodies are exactly the same. As a society we fought long and hard to arrive at legal principles which recognize that each person is entitled to complete and fair compensation for the injury caused by another’s negligence.
Caps will provide ICBC with incentive to over-classify injuries as ‘minor’. This reduces the maximum amount of eligible compensation to staggeringly low amounts — $4,000 to $6,000 would be the maximum according to the most recent estimates. This is far less than the average of what judges assess to be appropriate and reasonable for the pain, suffering and indignity to the individual.
A cap on ‘minor injuries’ is a sure way of increasing the number of self-represented litigants in BC’s courts, which is already rising at an alarming rate. With a cap, the costs of litigating a minor file will quickly exceed the amount of possible money awarded to the client. ICBC will be able to reject claims with impunity.
Going after injured people in the name of cost effectiveness is short-sighted. There is no guarantee that caps would lead to sustained lower insurance rates. In Alberta, premiums remain the highest in Canada on average, despite enacting legislation over 10 years ago that capped ‘minor injury’ awards.
There also would need to be several court decisions regarding the definition of ‘minor injury’ in order to clarify what type of cases will be capped, and the ways of getting around it.
The whole proposal seems to forget that ICBC is paying for injuries caused by negligent drivers. Where is the focus on safety? Rather than placing the blame on people’s injuries, focus the attention on the abhorrent driving one sees on a daily basis in BC.
ROAD BC is a coalition of British Columbians who are committed to protecting the rights of anyone who becomes injured on BC roads. It is made up of individuals and associations across British Columbia which believe that “the best way to reduce accidents and protect victims is through established, inalienable rights – not arbitrary decisions that turn real people into a statistic.”
If you believe ICBC should not have even more power, the power to decide whether you or other British Columbians have only a ‘minor injury’¾which is worth practically nothing¾please: