A legal battle is shaping up in British Columbia with the trial lawyers association promising to fight a move by the government-run auto insurer to overhaul claims payments and how it resolves disputes.
Effective immediately, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia has set a $5,500 cap on pain and suffering payments for minor injuries, which the Crown corporation describes as payments “recognizing the inconvenience and emotional distress of being in a crash.”
The corporation is also sending all disagreements about how minor injuries are determined, or disputes about any injury claim below $50,000 to a civil resolution tribunal.
On its website, the corporation says the tribunal can be used without the need for legal representation, but the Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia has warned the government that it intends to launch a constitutional challenge.
The association says the revisions have the potential to unfairly cut compensation for crash victims.
Association president Ron Nairne says in a statement that the new process could also restrict access to the courts, denying claimants of a basic human right guaranteed by the Charter of Rights.
“The approach this government has taken to legislative and regulatory changes to address ICBC’s mismanagement problems violates the rights of British Columbians. This should be about protecting the public interest – not about protecting ICBC,” Nairne says.
Attorney General David Eby said Friday that word of the constitutional challenge was not unexpected.
“They believe that you can only resolve disputes appropriately through B.C. Supreme Court. We don’t, obviously, agree with their interpretation of the law,” he said.
Changes to insurance corporation payments and procedures were announced last year, shortly after Eby referred to the insurer as a “financial dumpster fire.”
The latest fiscal year ended March 31 and the corporation announced in February that its projected deficit was $1.18-billion, on top of the $1.3-billion loss posted over the 2017/18 fiscal year.
With the April 1 cap on pain and suffering payouts for minor injury claims, B.C. becomes the final province in Canada to limit the payments.
The corporation has said the change is expected to save it more than $1-billion annually.