Canada currently has less car accident injuries per year than any other time in recorded history yet ICBC has increased auto insurance rates. The number of fatalities, serious injuries, and total injuries is at its lowest since data was first collected by Transport Canada in the early 1970’s. Since 1994 the amount of serious injuries have decreased by more than 50%.
ICBC and the current government appear to be blaming the increase in rates in part on an increase in personal injury claims, implying that personal injury lawyers are behind the increase in costs, inflating the costs of claims. This could not be further from the truth as only 3% of ICBC claims are settled with personal injury lawyers. ICBC settles the other 97% injury claims with unrepresented claimants.
BC injury lawyers are paid less on average than other lawyers in Canada and are low in numbers, only 1 out of every 450 BC citizens are lawyers and most lawyers do not practice personal injury law. Lawyers are simply too few in number and there are far more ICBC claims that go forward in which claimants have no legal representation.
In the last 10 years we have seen ICBC spend historic amounts denying legitimate injury claims and fighting innocent victims of personal injury. ICBC claims have clogged the court unlikely any other part of Canada because BC claimants are left with no other alternative. ICBC has a legislated monopoly on auto insurance in British Columbia and has used this monopoly to institute policies that are inconsistent with court decisions requiring compensation be paid.
Sadly, ICBC accident benefits have not been increase since 1991 when maximum weekly disability payment were increased from $278 to $300. All other benefits have remained the same and in the last 20 years claimants have been awarded less for loss of earnings (now net income loss) and pain and suffering ( no pre-judgment interest).
Currently, the Canadian city with the highest frequency of car accidents was not Vancouver, Surrey or Victoria, it was Halifax, Nova Scotia. Halifax employed a cap system several years ago that has crippled the ability of injury claimants to obtain fair compensation for pain and suffering. This legislated change in Nova Scotia appears to have encouraged poor driving and lined the pockets of private insurance companies.
Bottom line is that the decrease in serious car accident injuries should mean BC residents are paying less, not more for basic auto insurance. Accident benefit coverage should also be increased to reflect the cost of living, which has not been done for over 20 years. There appears to be very little rationale for keeping ICBC in its current form unless significant changes are made to this inefficient government monopoly. The insurance market needs to be open to other companies that are more competitive and the BC government should fulfill its’ role of protecting the public and legislating better more fair injury compensation for innocent victims of persona injury.
Posted by Mr. Renn A. Holness, B.A. LL.B.- a British Columbia lawyer for over 20 years.