In February of 2018, the Attorney General of B.C., David Eby, announced that effective April of 2019, ICBC would be capping claims for pain and suffering of “minor” motor vehicle personal injuries at $5,500.
ICBC has declared that “minor” injuries include whiplash, aches and sprains, cuts and bruises, as well as anxiety resulting from an accident. (Broken bones or concussions are automatically considered to be major, and therefore outside of the cap). That said, if minor injury symptoms persist beyond 12 months and have a significant impact on the daily life (i.e. work or school) of the victim, then such injuries can be considered outside of the cap. Thankfully, only doctors will be able to make the determination between minor and major injuries. ICBC will not make that decision. That said, if ICBC disagrees with a doctor’s assignment, the decision will be made through a new independent dispute resolution process.
Accidents and claims that occur before April of 2019 will remain under ICBC’s current system and will not be subject to the cap.
The Province advised that the move has been made to help the monopoly insurer try to balance their books and that this move will save the insurer over $1 billion per year. Most lawyers and medical practitioners in the province have been against the cap as it forces the innocent victim of an accident to bear the burden of an economic solution, which hardly seems fair. It also threatens the victim’s ability to have access to the resources needed to properly heal.
ICBC lost $1.3 billion in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2018. Why such an overrun? We do know that the prior government had removed some operating funds from the Corporation. We also know that at least a portion of ICBC’s increasing expenses is coming from the corresponding increase in distracted drivers. In March, Eby advised that 25% of all fatalities in B.C. motor vehicle accidents are the result of distracted driving and that within the past three years, some 12,000 of our citizens have received two or more tickets for distracted driving. For this reason, the Province has recently increased fines and penalties for drivers receiving multiple tickets over a one to three-year period.
When ICBC loses money, that usually means rate hikes and most of us feel that our annual insurance premiums are high enough. Increasing penalties for those who are causing accidents seem to make far more sense than either going after the victims or up-charging the majority of us who obey the rules of the road.
The bottom line is that ICBC will be tightening the purse strings wherever it can, including (we can assume) on claims outside of this new cap. The best way to protect yourself under this new system is to have your injury assessed by your doctor and to meet with a lawyer if your claim is either a “major” injury or might end up to be a major injury due to the duration of treatments needed.
To speak with one of our experienced Personal Injury lawyers, fill out our form or call us at 604-533-3821.