British Columbia

Trial lawyers-led coalition raises more concerns over new ICBC cap on minor injury claims

A coalition headed up by the Trial Lawyers Association of B.C. says the new ICBC cap for pain and suffering on minor injury claims is not the right way to fix the company's financial woes.

'People will fall through the cracks'

Rather than the new cap for pain and suffering on minor injury claims, ROAD B.C. says it would have preferred a crackdown on distracted driving. (Christer Waara/CBC)

The provincial government's recent decision to cap ICBC claims at $5,500 for pain and suffering on minor injuries is meeting harsh criticism from a B.C. coalition which says the cap victimizes those injured in car crashes.

"This will ultimately harm British Columbians," said Louise Craig, a spokesperson for Rights Over Arbitrary Decisions (ROAD) B.C.

ROAD B.C. is a coalition headed up by the Trial Lawyer's Association of B.C. that includes a number of 
organizations that deal with medical and pain rehabilitation — most of them groups which stand to lose money under the new cap.

ICBC says the average payout for pain and suffering for minor injuries was $16,500 in 2016.

ROAD B.C. says the $5,500 cap will force British Columbians into a "one size fits all" category and drivers' individual responses to treatment and injuries won't be accounted for in the new system.

The cap is scheduled to go into effect April 1, 2019 and will not apply to wage loss and medical care or for legal costs.

Retired civil servant Rick McCandless has written extensively on ICBC. While McCandless doesn't dispute ROAD B.C.'s criticisms of the cap, he did say the cost of such claims is pushing ICBC to the breaking point.

"There's nothing wrong about what [ROAD B.C.] is saying, but it has gotten very expensive as more and more people access their rights for pain and suffering," said McCandless.

"They phrase it as fairness to the claimant, and there's nothing wrong with phrasing it that way. But those costs have been going up dramatically. We're not paying as much as we should be for car insurance."

Injured by injury caps

Craig has worked as a medical clinician for more than 30 years. She said she's treated hundreds of people with minor motor vehicle injuries that gradually escalate and become much more serious injuries over time.

Her concern is the cap won't allow for these types of patients to be adequately compensated if their seemingly minor injuries begin to negatively impact their life.

"I'm concerned that those people will fall through the cracks," said Craig during CBC Radio's All Points West program.

She fears those people won't be financially covered if they need to scale back their work hours or seek new job training due to unforeseen limitations brought about by their injury.

"I feel those people will ultimately be injured by injury caps," said Craig. "We have to remember these people are the victims in the collision."

The cap is part of a series of NDP-mandated ICBC reforms aimed at fixing the financial crisis at the public auto insurance company.

But Craig said there are better options when it comes to dealing with the money crisis that B.C. Attorney General David Eby recently called a "financial dumpster fire."

Instead, she says she would have preferred to see a concentrated effort by the NDP and ICBC to reduce distracted driving. Craig said the number of car collisions increase every year and reducing the amount of crashes is a far better fix.

Craig added she supports the NDP's push to make treatment more readily available to injured persons. She said in order to prevent more serious consequences, it's important people get the money they need to treat minor injuries as soon as possible after a crash.

With files from All Points West

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