On Thursday, February 6, 2020, the provincial government announced changes to ICBC, which they say will remove lawyers and legal costs from the system to reduce rates and substantially increase care-benefits.
Legislation will be introduced in the coming weeks that will lower ICBC premiums by approximately 20 per cent, the government says – an average of $400 in savings per driver. At the same time, maximum care and treatment benefits for anyone injured in a crash will increase to at least $7.5 million, and new benefits will provide care for those most seriously injured, for as long as they need it. These benefits will be available to every British Columbian without having to hire a lawyer.
These improvements will be achieved by removing the majority of legal fees and other costs associated with the current litigation-based system. The new care-based insurance system is forecast to remove more than $1.5 billion in the first full year, savings that will be passed on to ICBC customers through lowered insurance rates.
However, Columbia River Revelstoke MLA Doug Clovechok (BC Liberal) says it’s all smoke and mirrors. He says John Horgan has broken his promise to never introduce no-fault insurance.
“The NDP just abolished your right to compensation for pain and suffering – and they are hiding it by saying it is still available for “catastrophic injuries”, however they define that term,” Clovechok said. “The NDP will force you to deal with ICBC for the rest of your life if you have any significant injury.”
However, the government says those injured in vehicle accidents will have plenty of options.
To give British Columbians confidence that they will be treated fairly, says a government press release, the planned legislation will require ICBC, by law, to assist every person who makes a claim and endeavour to ensure they receive all of the care and benefits to which they are entitled. Customers who still have complaints or disputes about their claim, benefit payments or fairness issues will not need a lawyer to have them resolved. They will have recourse through:
* the Civil Resolution Tribunal, which is independent of ICBC;
* the B.C. Ombudsperson; and
* the upcoming ICBC fairness officer, who will be appointed by government to ensure greater independence from ICBC.
B.C. drivers need more affordable rates and they need it now, the press release said. The NDP also point out that personal injury lawyers made $500 million from ICBC settlements in 2019. They add that 14 of the law firms that profited from settlements last year are past BC Liberal donors – giving a total of $154,926.
“This NDP scheme is nothing more than an election trick as sky-high rates will continue beyond the next election, with an NDP promise to lower them after the election,” Clovechok argued.
He says British Columbians want choice in their insurance.
“Why aren’t we being offered the Saskatchewan model where drivers can choose either no fault or the current system of lump sum settlements, with no difference in premiums?
“We are hearing from constituents that they are fed up with the lack of choice. They want choice. In effect what the NDP have done is just the opposite. Their actions further limit choices. John Horgan continues to demonstrate that he is tone deaf to what British Columbian want and are asking for while imposing what he thinks we need. George Orwell’s Big Brother comes to mind.”