By: Dilara Guntay
B.C Insurance Corporation has recently announced a significant policy change to a no-fault insurance system. The BC government predicts that changes will reduce the price of auto insurance by $400 annually. However, are these lower prices worth restricting legal rights? This trade-off has been subject to intense debate from attorney and lawyer associations of B.C. How will this impact you?
Effective May 2021, the new system would prohibit the affected party from filing a lawsuit against the ‘at-fault driver.’ Instead, ICBC will compensate victims directly. ICBC projects annual savings up to $1.5 billion by taking high legal costs out of the picture. ICBC claims that benefits will be extended in terms of both the variety and length of services you receive.
This policy may also have negative impacts, such as disregarding how lawsuits can compensate severely injured victims. As John Rice, president of Trial Lawyers Association of B.C., explains: “It’s devastating news for personal injury lawyers, car-crash victims will now get less money than they could win in court. They will get nothing for their pain and suffering. We’re talking about people whose lives have been changed forever by catastrophic injuries. Brain injuries. Spinal-cord injuries. Orthopedic fractures, amputations, and burns.” Lawyers claim that this policy particularly favours smaller-scale accidents and believe that lawsuits would be the most appropriate process. Under this new system, the victim renders powerless and has no choice but to accept what ICBC offers even if the victim deems it as unfair.
Monic Pratch, UBCO professor of business law and a lawyer of the community, explains “Anytime I see government policy trying to restrict an individual’s right to legal counsel, I get concerned. In this particular case, the change to a no-fault system with no public consultation and without any consideration for the rights of British Columbians to rely on the tort system and the courts for a remedy is very disappointing.”
Criticisms about the policy are going beyond law professions. Insurees are also expressing doubts. As M. Ali, a student from UBCO, states “I come from Alberta, and this change only encourages me to keep my insurance from there because ICBC seems like they don’t care about their clients; in fact, they come across as money-hungry.” Many do not feel that saving costs are worth losing legal rights.