Court Criticizes ICBC “Failure” To Pay For Necessary Treatments

ICBC and the Provincial government have been working overtime trying to persuade British Columbians that stripping collision victims of the right to go to court to be fairly paid for their injuries is a good idea.  They claim that by taking away these rights ICBC will treat victims fairly under a so-called ‘care based’ model.

Reasons for judgement were published this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, demonstrating that ICBC can be anything but fair when it comes to meeting their obligations to pay for long term injury treatments.

In today’s case (Del Bianco v. Yang) the Plaintiff sustained life long injuries in a collision.  At trial he was awarded damages which included payment for future care for massage therapy and kinesiology.  Despite being ordered to pay this money ICBC refused saying they will pay that portion of the judgement from the Plaintiff’s ‘no fault’ insurance with them over the years as the treatments are incurred.  An ICBC adjuster swore an affidavit declaring payments would be made.

The Court did not accept that ICBC would make payments, however, noting that they refused to pay the mandated no-fault benefits in the years prior to trial leaving little confidence that they would fairly meet their future obligations.  In refusing to deduct the vast majority of the awarded future care costs Mr. Justice Groves provided the following criticism of ICBC’s handling of the claim and their unexplained “failure” to pay past benefits they were obliged to:

[13]         It is concerning to the court that the representative of ICBC, Andrew Rudkowski, has not, in his affidavit, explained the failure of ICBC prior to trial to pay the massage therapy costs of the plaintiff. Liability for these motor vehicle accidents was never seriously in dispute. The injuries that required massage therapy, therapy that was necessary for Mr. Del Bianco to work, and effectively minimalize the extent of his tort claim, were lower back, shoulder and soft tissue injuries.

[14]         Equally concerning is the apparent exaggeration, even today, less than one year into a potentially 40-year commitment, as to the extent of ICBC’s commitment to pay what was ordered after trial. In paragraph 6, Andrew Rudkowski deposes that “ICBC will reimburse Mr. Del Bianco for the necessary health care services he has incurred since March 22, 2019 and he incurs in the future”. That is, as noted by defence counsel, not true. They will only reimburse under their payment schedule of $80, when the court determined on the evidence the cost of such treatment at $85.

[15]         Counsel for the plaintiff ably argued about the difficult financial circumstances that his injury and the actions of ICBC placed on the plaintiff from the time of the accident until, essentially, the time of this application. For whatever reason, unexplained, ICBC refused to pay for his massage therapy treatments. The suggestion from counsel for the plaintiff was that ICBC took the position that because he had a hernia operation after the accident, not related to the injuries suffered in the accident, that the hernia problem was the source of his discomfort. That, to a great degree, defies logic, as the hernia was, for lack of a better term, in the plaintiff’s groin or abdomen, whereas the soft tissue injuries requiring massage were in his back.

[16]         The court is faced with the representations of a claims specialist from ICBC that they will, in the future, pay these costs. The evidence about the lack of financial viability of ICBC, as attested to by the Cabinet Minister responsible for ICBC, the Attorney General, is not significantly disputed. Nor is it disputed that ICBC is not prepared to pay for massage therapy at a rate that the court has ordered.

[17]         Additionally, and though this was not raised by counsel, but is a concern to the court, it is hard to know and predict, dare I say impossible to know and predict, at what rate ICBC will, in the future, be paying for massage therapy costs. This is not just a short-term future. This is 40 years. If, as now, this would require the plaintiff to pay the difference himself, to pay over and above what ICBC is prepared to pay, when the tort award was intended to fully compensate him. He may perhaps then seek reimbursement from ICBC. This creates a 40-year responsibility on this plaintiff to keep track of receipts, to make requests and deal with adjusters at ICBC. That is completely inconsistent with the general purpose of litigation and tort awards, to create some finality between the parties.

[18]         In light of the history of non-payment by ICBC for no apparent reason, as experienced by the plaintiff, it is unrealistic, in my view, to require him for a period of 40 years, to have to continue to deal with an adjuster at ICBC in order to obtain what the court has already ordered he is entitled to.

[19]         Additionally, as noted by the plaintiff, there is just too much uncertainty as to the ability of ICBC to make the payments at a rate ordered by the court. They are, today, not prepared to pay at the rate the court ordered. There is too much uncertainty related to their past history of being disinterested or disrespectful of the plaintiff’s claims. There is too much uncertainty as to what the future holds for ICBC, as evidenced by the affidavit of the plaintiff, for the court to have absolute confidence that if money is deducted from the tort award for Part 7 scheduled benefits, that they will actually be paid.

[20]         I note the case of Li v. Newson, 2012 BCSC 675, a decision of Mr. Justice Abrioux, as he then was. He notes in para. 14, inter alia, that “uncertainty as to whether a Part 7 benefit will be paid must be resolved in favour of the plaintiff”. I find on the facts before me considerable uncertainty that payments consistent with the tort award would be paid to Mr. Del Bianco for massage therapy for the 40 years as awarded.

[21]         As such, I am not prepared to deduct amounts for massage therapy under s. 83 from the plaintiff’s tort award. These comments relate to the massage therapy treatments to age 65 and the massage therapy treatments from age 65 to age 75. There is, as noted above, in the circumstances of a 40-year payment period, too much uncertainty and, frankly, too much of a requirement placed on this plaintiff to potentially request reimbursement weekly for funds not paid directly by ICBC, but payable out of his pocket. That is simply too much to expect.

RCMP say COVID-19 no excuse for expired auto insurance, drivers licences

The excerpted article was written by CBC News

ICBC is moving transactions like auto insurance renewals online and over the phone as a way to avoid in-person contact during the spread of COVID-19.

Even though auto insurance services are no longer open at many ICBC offices, driving uninsured won’t fly.

“There is no reason [or] excuse people cannot renew their insurance,” said Cpl. Mike Halskov, with BC RCMP Traffic Services.

“If one fails to renew their insurance when due and continues to drive or is involved in a collision, they are subject to a violation ticket or, in the event of a crash, may not be insured.”

ICBC says to call an Autoplan broker to renew insurance, change a policy or other service. Drivers should give themselves extra time, as transactions may take longer than usual.

After insuring a vehicle, usually the driver is given an update decal to stick on their license with the new expiry date. Those will either be mailed out or can be picked up from an open office, a spokesperson with ICBC said.

Drivers pulled over for having an expired decal will need to show proof of valid insurance regardless of their sticker.

“If a person renews their insurance over the phone and does not receive a new decal right away, police can still determine whether or not a vehicle is insured, even if the decal on the plate is not current,” Halskov said.

Some brokers are still open for transactions that can’t be done over the phone, like vehicle registrations and new policies.

All road tests are suspended for at least the next two weeks but driving licensing offices are still open as usual for license renewals.

On its website, ICBC says customers who show up at an ICBC licencing office will be asked questions to screen for COVID-19, and it’s limited how many people enter the offices so it can ensure social distancing.

Canadian truckers face insurance issues in U.S.

The excerpted article was written BY  

Trucking companies in Atlantic Canada are raising a red flag over a lack of health insurance for drivers crossing the American border after new restrictions were implemented to deal with the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“Some small companies have called and pointed out that their insurance, or their health insurance, wouldn’t be covered for drivers going into the U.S.,” says Jean-Marc Picard, the executive director of the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association.

However, in a news release issues late Thursday afternoon, the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association says “Canada’s life and health insurers are confirming that group out-of-country medical coverage for commercial truckers will continue uninterrupted.”

“Provisions in some group, or workplace insurance plans refer specifically to Government of Canada travel advisories as a limitation or exclusion for out-of-country medical coverage,” spokesperson Kevin Dorse says in the release.

“Some commercial trucking employers offer plans with this exclusion.”

Picard says the issue of immigrant drivers, several of whom are temporary foreign workers crossing the border and being denied re-entry, has been resolved following clarification from the federal government indicating truckers, among others in the trade and transportation sector, are exempt from the isolation rules.

But while trucks are “flowing well across the border,” Picard says it’s not necessarily smooth sailing for the drivers on the ground.

“Some truck stops in the U.S. are starting to close, and Canada as well, limited access, restaurants are closed, take-out only,” which means in some cases there are no places to shower or relax.

ICBC cancelling all road tests due to COVID-19

March 17, 2020

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic in British Columbia, ICBC is taking a number of measures to protect the health and safety of its customers, partners and employees. These measures include suspending all driver road tests effective today, March 17, 2020, in line with public health recommendations around social distancing.

All motorcycle, passenger, and commercial road tests are cancelled until further notice. ICBC will reassess the situation in two weeks, taking into account public health recommendations and other operational considerations at that time.

All impacted customers scheduled to take road tests over the next week are being notified by ICBC that their appointment has been cancelled. ICBC will do its best to accommodate those impacted in rescheduling once ICBC returns to full operations.

ICBC undertakes approximately 7,500 road tests a week across the province. The tests, in most cases, involve ICBC driver examiners conducting a driving examination in an individual’s vehicle, in addition to some interaction at the Driver Licensing Office front counter. The cancellation of all road tests for the next two weeks impacts approximately 15,000 road tests.

Customers with scheduled road tests are encouraged to visit icbc.com for more information or to call 1-800-950-1498.

Other precautionary measures ICBC is taking to ensure the health and safety of our customers and staff include:

At all ICBC offices:

  • Continuing to direct any customers who are sick or have travelled outside Canada (in the last 14 days) not to enter any of our offices, and turning away customers if needed

  • Requesting people to pay traffic tickets or other fines via phone or mail, not in person

  • Limiting the number of customers in office waiting areas

  • Increasing cleaning and sanitization in all our facilities and offices

At Driver Licensing Offices:

  • Asking COVID-19 screening questions

At claims centres:

  • Restricting appointments and drop-in visits to urgent transactions only

At head office:

  • Suspending walk-in service for vehicle insurance customers

ICBC continues to review our operations as the situation evolves to support the safety of our customers and employees, including reviewing of opportunities in which brokers can issue and renew insurance policies over the phone.  More information will be provided on any changes to our operations as soon as possible.

ICBC is committed to following the recommendations from federal and provincial public health agencies in consultation with government. Please visit the BC Centre for Disease Control website (bccdc.ca) for more information on COVID-19 including preventative measures and when to seek medical attention.

Ignore Them, They’ll Go Away

delete keyLast September the Parents Advisory Committee (PAC) at the Ecole Oceanside Elementary School in Parksville asked me to help establishing a crossing guard program for what they considered to be a dangerous intersection at one corner of the school grounds. In past, the principal had raised the issue of liability concerns that needed to be looked into and that was the end of the conversation.

This year, with a little bit of research and advice from another school that had a crossing guard program this program was backed by the new principal. The request made it as far as school district’s Operations and Maintenance / Transportation manager according to the PAC, where it stalled yet again.

The head of the PAC has now stopped responding to requests for an update on the progress of their project.

The strategy of Ignore Them, They’ll Go Away seems to have been successfully adopted by many levels of government today. From the perspective of gathering information for this site, RoadSafetyBC is the worst, TranBC along with the RCMP are somewhere in the middle and ICBC has been the best, although they are now beginning to ignore e-mail requests as well.

In all cases, if you agenda matches theirs, information is forthcoming, often surprisingly quickly. The people at RoadSafetyBC spent a lot of effort assisting me in creating a unit on the Enhanced Road Assessment for my ElderCollege course. However, ask if there has been any follow up research on 2015’s B.C. Communities Road Safety Survey to see if there have been improvements and the e-mail enters a black hole.

At this point I would even be happy with an auto response telling me that my message has been received. It would be a simple matter to include information about how requests are triaged and what to do if a response is not received within a reasonable amount of time.

When I was working in traffic enforcement I was occasionally reminded by the driver I was dealing with that they were the ones that paid my wages. Yes, I did work for them but sometimes that work was not what they wanted me to be doing. Still, they had a point and I had an obligation. Government seems to forget this too.

On the other hand, I can imagine that with the ability to e-mail some government contacts being so simple, many of us do it. There must be a huge volume of e-mail to deal with and people do make mistakes.

To come full circle to the PAC request, if they considered their crossing guard program and decided that it was the best solution, they should be prepared to persist in the face of silence. The group should not quit until they are either successful or are shown that there is a better way to deal with the problem.

Enhanced security features added to most ICBC-issued cards

Enhanced security features added to most ICBC-issued cards

ICBC has introduced enhanced security features to B.C. driver licences to ensure people across the province are protected against identify fraud. Customers who are now applying for a new card or are renewing will receive a card with enhanced security features.

Driver licences are used as primary ID by many British Columbians. Maintaining the integrity of licences is paramount to ensuring the safety of personal identification and information.

While the card design will remain the same, new features will be added to both the front and back of the new card to help further deter fraud and alteration. Some of the enhancements are:

  • Microtext on the front of the card,

  • An image of either a bear, whale or bird on the back of the card, to differentiate between the type of card issued, and

  • The cardholder signature on the back of the card.

The enhanced security features will also apply to the BC Services card and the BC Identity card.

These enhancements are part of ICBC’s standard procedures to protect customers and maintain the integrity of the cards.

Driver licences are valid for five years. There were 3,535,000 active licences in 2018:

  • Lower Mainland: 2,110,000

  • Vancouver Island: 625,000

  • Southern Interior: 560,000

  • North Central: 235,000

For more details on the security features, visit icbc.com.

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