ICBC’s no-fault insurance scheme now in effect
Time will tell how the Insurance Company of British Columbia’s (ICBC) new no-fault system will impact accident victims but
policyholders may want to investigate extended insurance options for further protection and peace of mind, says Larry Herscu, President of Easy Legal Finance.
ICBC’s “Enhanced Care coverage” launched last month and applies to British Columbians injured in a crash on or after May 1,
2021. The Crown corporation claims it will pay substantially higher income-replacement benefits for full-time, temporary or part-time earners who
cannot continue working because of their injuries.
The insurer says that by removing the majority of legal fees and other costs associated with the current litigation-based
system, it can boost the upper limits of benefits available to a person injured in an auto accident.
“There is a clear short-term advantage for drivers through the average rate decrease of 20 per cent over last year’s
premiums,” says Herscu. “But if you’re catastrophically injured in a crash, there may be costs you can’t recover because you lose your right to sue for damages.
“As claims make their way through the system, I think we’ll have a clearer picture,” he says.
According to DailyHive, the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General says the basic rate decrease is the “largest in the province
in more than 40 years” and is made possible by removing the majority of legal fees and other costs associated with the current litigation-based system.
He says plaintiffs who still have complaints or disputes about their claims, benefit payments, or fairness issues will not
need a lawyer to have them resolved. “Instead, this will be done through the Civil Resolution Tribunal (which is independent of the ICBC), the B.C.
ombudsperson, and an ICBC fairness office,” the article continues.
In Ontario, similar disputes go through the province’s License Appeal Tribunal (LAT). Herscu notes that recent statistics
show there are severe delays in proceedings which may create increased pressure on a motor vehicle accident claimant to settle.
The data, obtained by the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association through a Freedom of Information request, show that it took an average of 505 days
between an application and decision.
“Those statistics don’t include the time leading up to the application, so it could be several years before a decision is made,” says Herscu.
“For a claimant who is trying to resolve a dispute about their entitlement to, or amount of, statutory motor vehicle
accident benefits and is unable to work due to their injury, delays of this magnitude can be demoralizing and could force a claimant to settle
prematurely,” he says.
“We have seen this play out in Ontario. I hope the B.C. model doesn’t follow a similar path.”
Global News reports a Vancouver man suffered a concussion and other injuries during a May 10, 2021 collision, when an impaired driver’s vehicle jumped the curb and struck as he walked on the sidewalk.
He is one of the first claimants under the new system, and he told Global the ICBC will cover his medical bills and loss of income indefinitely, but he says he’s discovered he might be out of pocket for some costs that he can’t recover since he can’t sue.
“This is not care-based,” he tells Global News. “It feels like it’s going to be a full-time job navigating this new system and constantly having to justify and explain myself.”
The man says he has struggled to find out what is and isn’t covered in enhanced health care.
He tells Global there are a lot of trickle-down and secondary expenses that are going to come as a direct result of this incident, noting that they don’t technically fall under health care.
While every motorist who resides in B.C. is legally required to purchase the Basic Autoplan package from ICBC, drivers can buy extra coverage including an income replacement benefit top-up and extended third-party liability.
“I think comprehensive and other insurance add-ons are worth investigating, either through ICBC or a private insurer,” Herscu says. “Not that I encourage people to be overinsured, but a small change could give you huge relief in the event you’re injured in an accident.”