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Eby: New no-fault system benefits British Columbia residents

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Any gaps in the coverage of the new no-fault system can be addressed in a five-year review, says the Prime Minister

The beneficiaries of the old litigation-based ICBC system were lawyers, not victims, says British Columbia Premier David Eby.

He said any gaps in the coverage of the new no-fault system could be addressed during a five-year review.

Eby was responding to critics who say the province's new no-fault insurance model has lowered premiums and given refunds to policyholders at the expense of victims with catastrophic injuries who can no longer sue for pain and suffering. “I saw the old system up close,” said Eby, a former human rights lawyer and son of a personal injury lawyer and attorney general in 2018, when the BC NDP called ICBC a “financial trash can fire” for its $1.3 billion deficit.

“I can tell you that the beneficiaries of the old system were the lawyers,” Eby said. “It wasn't the drivers who paid double-digit increases every year. It wasn't the people who were injured in accidents who paid 30 percent of the compensation that was supposed to cover their care for the rest of their lives, at least in legal fees.”

Eby, a former associate professor of law at the University of British Columbia, said victims had to endure years of court proceedings while waiting for money for their treatment, unlike the 12 weeks of immediate treatment offered to accident victims today without a referral.

No-fault insurance, the so-called “Enhanced Care Model,” was introduced in May 2021 to pay victims fixed compensation amounts based on the type of injury, regardless of fault and without referral. This deprived most victims of the right to sue.

The goal of the no-fault system was to ensure that billions of dollars that would otherwise be spent on legal fees, compensation and damages would instead be used to provide improved benefits, prompt treatment and compensation. It would also introduce lower base premiums and discounts for policyholders.

This month, Eby announced a fourth refund to be paid out to about 3.6 million policyholders from May to July, at a cost of $400 million as the group expects revenue of about $1.3 billion.

Last July, Victoria lawyer Tim Schober, who was hit by a car while cycling in August 2021 and is now suffering from quadriplegia, filed a civil suit against the province in the Supreme Court of British Columbia. The Trial Lawyers Association of BC acted as second plaintiff, arguing that no-fault insurance legislation discriminates against people based on the cause of their disability.

Schober argues that ICBC's revenue increases came at the expense of victims of serious injuries like himself, who did not receive their full wages and could not sue for higher compensation for pain and suffering.

Eby said one of the government's commitments when introducing the new system was to review it after five years “to make sure we can identify any problems”.

There have been problems with the new system concerning pedestrians and cyclists “and other aspects as we introduce the new model,” he said.

“We have addressed those issues, but there may be more,” Eby said. “This review will allow us to close any gaps that may still exist.”

The Conservative Party of British Columbia believes that victims who suffer life-changing injuries in car accidents should be exempt from the no-fault insurance scheme and “should have the right to seek fair and equitable compensation in the courts of British Columbia.”

However, party leader John Rustad said his party would maintain a maximum amount for compensation for “minor injuries” or so-called “soft tissue injuries.”

Eby said on Thursday that it was “astonishing to me” that the Conservatives are addressing the four existing rebates and the lack of an increase in basic tariffs until 2026 and want to abolish the system.

“And there is only one reason why they would do that,” Eby said.

“It’s for the personal injury lawyers.”

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