In January of this year the NDP announced that it would bring in legislation to “cap” the amount of compensation that can be paid for pain and suffering associated with a minor injury caused by a motor vehicle accident. On April 23, 2018, they introduced legislation (Bill 20) to effect the necessary changes to ICBC to accomplish their goal of reducing the amount of money that could be paid to innocent victims of motor vehicle accidents. The truth is that the changes will significantly affect how people injured in a automobile accident are dealt with and it is not limited to ONLY minor injuries. Some of the most significant changes include the following:
1. Chronic pain that can have a lifelong adverse effect on a person will, in many cases, be deemed to be a “minor injury”.
2. Psychological and psychiatric conditions including depression and PTSD, even if they are chronic, will be considered to be minor unless they significantly impair a person’s functioning for at least 12 months. What is meant by “significantly impaired” is unclear, but it appears it will require a serious impact on a person’s ability to work or go to school.
3. Despite the NDP’s claim that an innocently injured person will have their medical expenses paid for up front, the changes may actually result in the injured victim having to pay for some of the cost of treatment out of their own pocket without the ability to recoup that cost from the at-fault driver. For example, ICBC currently agrees to pay up
to $140 for psychological counselling, while most psychologists charge between $160 and $200 per hour. The innocent victim, however, is entitled to be paid the full amount as part of their claim when it is resolved as against the at-fault driver. The new system would leave the injured person to pay the additional cost.
4. Proposed changes will reduce the amount of compensation payable for past wage loss. For example, if you are a teacher or a CUPE worker with an accumulating “sick
bank” you will be required to use that benefit and you will not receive compensation from ICBC to allow you to repay the “sick bank” so it is there for your future. In fact, the changes make it possible that, if your injury forces you to retire, your pension or retirement savings could be deducted from your wage loss claim.
5. Proposed changes give the government, be it the NDP or the Liberals, the power to create regulations controlling:
a. How your doctor or treatment provider should examine you;
b. What diagnostic tools your doctor can use to ascertain the nature and extent of
c. What treatment you must or cannot have;
d. Who you can or cannot see to give an opinion on the nature of your injury.
6. Changes will also give the government the power to limit the compensation payable even on serious injuries simply by enacting regulations.
7. Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT)will have the right to decide if the injury is or is not minor. The decision maker will, therefore, be a civil servant appointed by the very government agency responsible for ICBC. CRT has only been in existence since June of 2017 and has little to no experience with personal injury claims. What little experience the Tribunal does have is limited to injuries that were worth less than $5,000. Proposed changes will vastly increase the monetary amount the Tribunal can consider to $50,000, which is greater then Provincial Court Judges who have far greater experience and are independent of ICBC and the government.
Sadly, the changes will do nothing to address the real problem, which is bad driving. Instead, the changes will place the burden of bad and distracted driving on the conscientious innocent victims. Disadvantaged, vulnerable, less educated and those suffering disabilities or mental illness will be at the mercy of an ICBC adjuster who will seek to pay the innocent victim as little as possible.