By Hayley Woodin | BIV
The new no-fault “Enhanced Care” system proposes higher care, treatment and income benefits, funded by a significant reduction in legal costs. Underpinning that is a promised shift from an adversarial and defensive culture at ICBC to one that prioritizes the care of all British Columbians injured in a motor vehicle accident, regardless of fault.
For example, individuals will be eligible for up to $7.5 million to cover costs related to care, such as medication, physiotherapy and counselling – a significant increase above the current $300,000 threshold. Those who lose wages will be entitled to an income benefit allowance of up to $1,200 per week, a 62% top-up from the current weekly cap of $740.
B.C. Attorney General David Eby says funding for Enhanced Care – which includes other benefits, such as personal care assistance, grief counselling and income replacement – will come from a drastic cut in the costs associated with challenging and defending claims.
Under the current system, ICBC projects it would pay $960 million in legal costs and $940 million in injury claim settlement costs in 2022. The new system – slated to take effect in May 2021 pending legislative approval – is expected to reduce legal costs to $100 million and settlement costs to $130 million – decreases of nearly 90% and 86%, respectively.
ICBC also expects pain and suffering payments to drop to $90 million under Enhanced Care, compared with an estimated $1.3 billion if changes weren’t made to the current system.
But critics take issue with how the provincial government plans to fund ICBC’s Enhanced Care.
“The government started by announcing all the things that the system would give them, but what they didn’t address were all the things that the new system was taking away,” said Shawn Mitchell, executive director of the Trial Lawyers Association of BC.
Things taken away include the majority of ICBC’s payouts for pain and suffering, which recognize an accident’s less tangible impacts, such as inconvenience and emotional distress, along with the ability to sue another insured for additional compensation – with some exceptions – and the ability to sue ICBC if it does not administer the benefits an insured is entitled to.