Is ICBC’s new policy good news for British Columbians?

Marwa Elgabry / February 12, 2020

BC drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians will see a major change to ICBC’s insurance system in May of 2021. ICBC will be adopting a care-based insurance model which it says will lower premiums and increase care and recovery benefits.

(Pixabay)

ICBC is planning to shift to a care-based insurance model in May of 2021. ICBC Spokesperson Brent Shearer said that this means increased care coverage and lower premiums for thousands of British Columbians.

“People’s insurance premiums will go down by about 20% or $400 on average, and drivers injured in a motor vehicle crash will have access to up to $7.5 million dollars worth of care and recovery benefits. Those benefits are available to not just drivers but passengers, pedestrians, and cyclists as well. On top of that, the wage loss benefit is being increased by 60%.” – Brent Shearer, ICBC Spokesperson

To fund the changes, ICBC will remove legal costs associated with court claims. In most cases, injured victims will not be able to sue for further compensation. Shearer alleged that the cost for legal fees is too high, and that by removing litigation, ICBC can increase the funding available for care and recovery.

“Historically, one out of every $4 that British Columbians spent on insurance went to legal costs. The changes that we’ve made in the past year have reduced that, but still going forward, it’s about $700 million dollars annually just spent on legal costs.” – Brent Shearer, ICBC Spokesperson

The right to sue

Local lawyer and avid cyclist Joel Zanatta said that this will take away people’s opportunity to fight for the compensation they feel they deserve.

“There will be funding available, but it’s controlled by an insurance company, not by yourself. So you’re always going to be beholden to them and asking them for payments and if they choose not to or if they deem you not injured enough, you won’t get anything.” – Joel Zanatta, Lawyer and Cyclist

Zanatta alleged that taking lawyers out of the equation wouldn’t solve the problem, especially for cyclists on the road.

“I’ve represented loads of people who’ve been in bike accidents and it’s always a fight to get coverage.” – Joel Zanatta, Lawyer and Cyclist

The removal of litigation across ICBC’s system hasn’t been well-received by all. Zanatta voiced concerns, stating that without the right to sue, residents may not get the compensation they feel they deserve.

(Marwa Elgabry / BCIT News)

An alternative

Shearer pointed out that despite the removal of litigation, people will still have options to dispute. Shearer explained that residents can still dispute with the Civil Rights Tribunal, as well as a new Fairness Commissioner that will be put in place. The province is also planning to implement a system to ensure that residents receive the help they need.

“When enhanced care coverage comes into effect in May 2021, legislation is also being put forward by the provincial government. That’ll make it mandatory by law for ICBC to assist and advise everybody about all of the treatment options available to them.” – Brent Shearer, ICBC Spokesperson

Increased care coverage can help people with disabilities who need the benefits to recover and adapt to a new lifestyle. Loh stated that accessibility will be the key to reaping these benefits under ICBC’s new system.

(Disability Alliance BC / Facebook)

Welcomed news

The announcement came as good news to Executive Director of Disability Alliance BC Justina Loh who’s hopeful that the new system will better support people with disabilities. Loh emphasized the hardships victims disabled from motor vehicle accidents faced when trying to access care and recovery benefits.

“Sometimes people were waiting years to get settlements; people are having to spend a lot of time and money on paperwork and legal fees. They’re not able to focus on their recovery. It was very long and very complicated and people were having to go through a lot of legal hoops to be able to access those benefits.” – Justine Loh, Executive Director of Disability Alliance BC

To get the most out of ICBC’s increased care coverage, Loh said there are still questions to be answered in order to create a streamlined system.

“There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done in terms of the actual regulations and actual policy . How’s it going to work? Where and how people are going to access these benefits? So there’s a lot of other pieces of this puzzle I would say.” – Justine Loh, Executive Director of Disability Alliance BC

Next steps

ICBC has stated that it will work with the province to confer with advocates for people with disabilities and healthcare partners regarding care and recovery benefits. Legislation will be introduced as soon as spring 2020, but ICBC users will continue to be covered under the current insurance system until April of 2021. All British Columbians will be automatically switched to Enhanced Care when the new system is implemented on May 1st, 2021.

The province will begin putting legislation forward spring 2020, with Enhanced Care being fully implemented on May 1st, 2021.

(Pixabay)