THE British Columbia government is directing changes for the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) to bring about an end to its financial crisis, while keeping rates affordable for B.C. drivers, Attorney General David Eby announced on Tuesday.
“ICBC was created to provide affordable insurance to all B.C. drivers, but years of reckless decisions by the previous government have thrown the corporation into financial chaos,” Eby said. “Today we start making the tough decisions that will stem ICBC’s losses, keep insurance affordable and provide enhanced care for people injured in automobile accidents. We’re going to make ICBC work for people again.”
He said the changes come in the wake of multiple revelations about decisions and inaction by the previous government, leading to ICBC projecting a 2017-2018 net loss of $1.3 billion. B.C. drivers could face premium increases averaging $400 or more, if no action is taken.
“For too long, difficult decisions have been put off and growing financial problems at ICBC hidden from the public. The changes we’re initiating today will reduce ICBC’s claims costs by more than $1 billion every year, helping make it sustainable for decades to come,” Eby said.
Taking effect April 1, 2019, the changes include:
- A new limit of $5,500 on pain and suffering for minor injury claims. The cost of those claims has increased 265% since 2000. British Columbia is the last province in Canada to take this kind of action.
- The first major improvements in accident benefits in 25 years, dramatically increasing the care available for anyone injured in a crash, regardless of fault. The overall medical care and recovery cost allowance will be doubled to $300,000. This change will be made retroactive to January 1, 2018, so it will effectively be in place to protect injured drivers and passengers immediately. (See more on this benefit below.)
- An independent dispute resolution process for certain motor vehicle injury claims.
Together, these changes will reduce the amount ICBC spends on legal fees and expenses, which have grown to consume 24% of ICBC’s budget. The savings from this change, when coupled with other planned initiatives, will restore ICBC to financial sustainability and finance the planned accident benefit improvements.
Disputes over certain motor vehicle injury claims, including the classification of an injury, will be adjudicated by B.C.’s Civil Resolution Tribunal, an independent body that already adjudicates strata and small claims disputes in the province.
“We’re putting ICBC’s priority back where it should be — providing fair, affordable rates for British Columbians, and giving drivers peace of mind with appropriate care if they are in a collision,” Eby said.
Eby also announced that ICBC will be consulting with customers on major revisions to the corporation’s rate structure with the goal of ensuring good drivers pay less, and bad drivers pay more. The consultation will ensure rate structure changes are responsive to the interests of British Columbians and done with full transparency.
“British Columbians can no longer afford to keep paying more and more for their auto insurance every year, and this is the decisive and immediate action which is needed to relieve the pressure on ICBC’s rates,” said Joy MacPhail, Chair, ICBC board of directors. “These changes make the injured customer our top priority, by redirecting payments away from legal costs into significantly enhancing the care and treatments for anyone who is injured in a crash.”
“Unbelievably, accident benefits haven’t been increased since 1991,” said Giovanna Boniface, national director of professional affairs for the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists. “B.C. occupational therapists have been helping injured drivers return to activities of daily living for decades and have seen declines in access to vital and necessary treatments for years. By raising the amount covered, and expanding the variety of treatments that are eligible, these changes will allow more people to have access to the treatment and adaptive equipment they need, thereby fostering quicker recovery and return to meaningful daily activities.”
“Disability Alliance BC has been advocating for improvements to accident benefits for 12 years,” said Jane Dyson, the DABC’s Executive Director. “The doubling of the overall allowance for medical care and recovery is a significant improvement. We welcome these long-overdue changes that will mean that people who are catastrophically injured in motor vehicle accidents have better supports available to help them rebuild their lives. Moving forward, DABC looks forward to continued dialogue with ICBC and government to help ensure that British Columbians accessing accident benefits receive the treatment and financial support they need.”
Accident benefit details:
- Doubling the lifetime allowance for medical care and recovery costs for those catastrophically injured in a car accident from $150,000 to $300,000. Legislation will be introduced with the intention of making this benefit retroactive to January 1, 2018, in order to start immediately helping seriously injured British Columbians.
- Covering a greater variety of treatment services.
- Significantly increasing the amount covered for treatments, so customers don’t have to pay out-of-pocket.
- More than doubling wage loss payments to $740 per week, almost doubling home support benefits to $280 per week, tripling funeral cost coverage to $7,500, and increasing death benefits to $30,000.
- Injury claims totalled $2.7 billion in 2016, an increase of 80% in the last seven years.
- The average claim paid out for minor injuries has risen from $8,200 in the year 2000 to $30,038 in 2016, an increase of 265%.
- At the same time, the average pain and suffering awards paid out for minor injuries have risen from $5,004 in 2000 to more than $16,499 in 2016.
- Vehicle damage claims costs have increased 30% in just two years, to a total of $1.5 billion in 2016 alone.
- Use of the CRT for minor injury dispute resolution means claimants who don’t use a lawyer will get to keep their entire settlement, rather than paying a portion of it to lawyer fees.
- The use of the CRT for these disputes will also reduce ICBC’s legal costs, which account for 24% of the corporation’s total annual costs. These costs are greater than the cost of running ICBC.