You might have heard the bad news. If you are hurt in a car crash in B.C. now, your ability to obtain compensation from the person at fault (or their insurer, typically ICBC) will be much different than for victims of car crashes which occurred before April 1, 2019.
The changes to the B.C. car insurance regime for accidents occurring on or after April 1 are so extensive they have been described in the press as a “generational shift.”
The government has made no bones about the fact that one of its principal motivations for the new web of rules is to save ICBC billions of dollars. The Attorney General, who is also in charge of ICBC, has been quoted as saying: “We have three billion reasons it [auto insurance] should have been changed long ago.”
One key change put in place to save ICBC money is the $5,500 cap a victim of a so-called “minor injury” can collect for pain and suffering. This cap – and the fact that the definition of “minor injuries” is much broader than the “minor injury” label suggests – has already received a fair amount of publicity. For example, the definition includes concussions (which are brain injuries) and whiplash- associated disorders – unless the injuries are extremely severe, according to very tough prescribed criteria.
This places the burden of saving ICBC money for “pain and suffering” payouts to victims of careless, distracted or impaired drivers squarely on the shoulders of the unlucky, random victims. Bottom line: Hurt in an accident on April 1 or later? Like all British Columbians, you might be caught by this cap.
Another very significant new change hasn’t gotten as much press. But it’s also bad news. This change highlights the determined effort of the government to steer car crash victims away from their right to have their day in court. Under these new rules – effective April 1, 2019 – an administrative body, called the Civil Resolution Tribunal, has the right (jurisdiction) to determine whether your injury is a “minor injury” under the criteria laid out in the legislation. This means that if a party to a claim, such as ICBC, simply claims your injuries are “minor injuries,” you cannot go to court. Instead, you have to go the route of the Civil Resolution Tribunal to get a decision about this.
The ruling of the Tribunal on this very critical question is final and binding. The only exception is that you have a limited right to judicial review (in effect, somewhat like a limited appeal to the court). So you may well end up stuck in the Tribunal – a body which operates online (and has previously handled small claims and strata disputes).
This is a significant limitation on your right to access our court system. The government hopes you will be happy to negotiate with savvy ICBC personnel, without a lawyer, under the Tribunal process. If hurt in a car crash, seek out an experienced personal injury lawyer promptly to help protect your rights.
Written by Janice and George Mucalov, LL.B.s as part of the YOU AND THE LAW series of articles, with assistance from Davidson Lawyers LLP.
This article provides information only and must not be relied on for legal advice. Please call us at 250-542-1177 for legal advice concerning your particular case. YOU AND THE LAW is a registered trademark.
© Janice and George Mucalov