Distracted driving causes more accidents, injuries, and deaths than drunk driving ever have in the past. What has not changed are the injuries that the victim suffers when they are hurt by someone else’s negligent driving. With the increase in distracted driving accidents, accident claims have increased as have the costs for vehicle repairs and all that is associated with that. So how does ICBC No-Fault insurance deal with this?
ICBC’s most recent approach to managing this cost has been to withdraw existing settlement offers (which were hopefully made after careful consideration of the accident victim’s claims) and replace them with lowball offers that force accident victims to trial. Instead of looking for a solution or penalizing the wrongdoer, they are punishing existing and future accident victims who were hurt by the negligence of others.
ICBC’s true financial picture is hard to assess because ICBC hides its numbers and arbitrarily reassesses its claims value estimations on a whim. Certainly, losses have grown over time due to transferring its past profits out of the Corporation, general mismanagement and ill-advised internal policy changes, the increased cost of repairing vehicles, an increase in distracted driving, and increased volume in accidents. These problems did not occur overnight and there can be no overnight solutions. Yet with the overnight implementation of a discriminatory “meat-chart” policy (categorizing value based on a chart instead of the individual facts, like how the grocery store prices cuts of meat) and making arbitrary lowball offers, this is exactly what ICBC is doing. This policy seems reckless and antagonistic towards the very people it insures. Its customers are the target.
ICBC’s refusal to fairly compensate injured victims without the necessity of going to trial is a systematic refusal to recognize the losses they have experienced. It leaves those who are struggling with disabling injuries reliant on government assistance and without the support they need to resume productive lives. Forcing victims to trial will dramatically increase litigation costs and create unnecessary backlogs in the courthouse. In other words, this knee jerk and ill-thought-out policy that ICBC has come up with now will create more problems than it solves. ICBC’s overnight decision to revoke existing settlement offers and replace them with lowball offers on files they had already quantified based on the evidence presented to them is the tip of the iceberg in terms of undermining the values we hold as Canadians.
Our current system is based on valuing people as individuals. It recognizes that each person is unique and seeks to compensate each person for their unique losses.
The new ICBC Caps and No-Fault regime, which is scheduled to be implemented in April of this year, expressly states that brain injuries, psychological conditions such as depression or PTSD, and chronic pain conditions are to be treated as “minor injuries”. It expressly keeps the adjudication of these claims out of the courts and puts them in the hands of a tribunal which will largely be making decisions based on paperwork the injured victim has to complete themselves.
The new No-Fault system is ignoring the fact that the greater the person’s injuries, the less able they will be to advocate for themselves. It should be noted that the tribunal will not allow injured parties to be represented by a lawyer, even though they are up against ICBC who is a sophisticated Crown Corporation and has hundreds of lawyers to advise them. This is grossly unfair and only serves to further victimize injured parties – it is adding insult to injury.
All of this may sound ominous, but please do not panic. ICBC has attempted such policies in the past, with little success. This current policy is likely unsustainable and hopefully temporary. Further, Kamloops is home to some of the most skilled and compassionate lawyers in BC and we will continue to advocate vigorously to obtain fair compensation for our clients and the rights of all British Columbians both inside and outside the courtroom. And as always, the decision to go to trial always rests with the client. We are in this together.