The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) is tightening restrictions to its injury claims policy in an effort to ease its financial woes. Some changes are already in effect, such as making high-risk drivers pay more. Driver Risk Premium and Driver Penalty Point Premium both went up 20 per cent on November 1 and will increase a further 20 per cent in November 2019.
Further changes will come into effect on April 1, 2019. The finer details of those changes have been kept under wraps, however, we got a better picture of what some of them will entail after they were made public.
This blog will outline some of the most significant changes.[pullquote]”ICBC will have more power with less accountability while limiting the rights of individuals.”[/pullquote]
Limits to ICBC minor injury claims
One of the ways the government is planning to make savings is by introducing a limit of $5,500 on payouts for pain and suffering caused by minor injuries. This is one-third of the average of $16,500 it says it pays out currently.
Not only will this reduce its overall costs, it is argued that it will also reduce the number of minor injury disputes and associated legal costs. After all, there’s less incentive to challenge a minor injury claim when there’s a maximum of $5,500 at stake as opposed to $16,500.
The insurer says it wants to focus on care, not legal costs, but drivers will inevitably find themselves worse off.
New dispute resolution process
Not only will there be less incentive to dispute a minor injury claim, but the whole dispute resolution process will be different. The Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT) will be introduced to make decisions on matters where there is disagreement between the customer and ICBC, such as determining whether an injury is minor or serious, whether a customer is entitled to certain accident benefits, deciding who is at fault in a crash, and settlement amounts for all injury claims below $50,000.
ICBC says customers still have the right to hire a lawyer but it’s not yet clear at what stage of the dispute process they would be allowed to do so. CRT decisions can be reviewed by the Supreme Court of BC, so it’s likely lawyers will still be allowed to help with appeals.
The ultimate aim is to have more people representing themselves. This could lead to situations where victims of negligence, through no fault of their own, are not receiving full and fair compensation. Particularly since the burden of proof is on the injured party in cases where there is a dispute over whether an injury is minor or serious. Rights Over Arbitrary Decisions for British Columbians (ROAD BC) has said the CRT system will give ICBC more power, with less accountability, while limiting the rights of individuals.
Reclassifying “minor injuries”
As well as capping off minor injury claims, the government is also downgrading certain injuries from “serious” to “minor”. These include:
- A concussion that does not result in an incapacity. Incapacity is defined as a mental or physical incapacity that persists after 16 weeks and prevents a person from being able to carry out essential tasks in their work, education or daily life.
- A TMJ disorder: An injury that involves or surrounds the temporomandibular joint – so injuries to the jaw and teeth.
- WAD injury: All whiplash associated disorders will be reclassified as minor unless they exhibit “decreased or absent deep tendon reflexes, deep tendon weakness or sensory deficits, or other demonstrable and clinically relevant neurological symptoms” or if there is a “fracture to or dislocation of the spine”.
Determining the timeline of an injury will be the responsibility of a registered doctor or physician. If a person sustains multiple injuries from an accident, each injury will need to be diagnosed separately to determine whether or not they are minor.
Why you should still challenge an ICBC claim if you are not satisfied
If you want to dispute an ICBC injury claim, it’s more important than ever that you hire a lawyer. Some are arguing the changes limit the rights of individuals and it is possible they will be challenged in the Supreme Court of BC for being unconstitutional.
If you need to make a claim for a serious injury, it is still recommended you hire a lawyer from the very beginning so you receive your full entitlement. The lawyers at Acumen Law have a great deal of experience with ICBC claims and are more than willing to help.
It remains to be seen at what stage a lawyer will be able to help with a minor injury claim but out lawyers will be ready to assist you however they can come April 1.
Call us today on 604-685-8889.