NDP government will cap ICBC awards for pain and suffering for minor injuries

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      Attorney General David Eby has announced new measures that he says will help ICBC address a financial crisis.

      Effective April 1, 2019, there will be a $5,500 limit on awards for pain and suffering for minor injury claims.

      Motorists can buy more coverage if they want a higher cap in this area. It will cost an additional $1,300 per year if they want the limit set at $75,000.

      According to ICBC, injury payouts cost a record $2.7 billion in 2016, which was up $1.2 billion from 2009. The new cap is expected to save ICBC more than $1 billion annually.

      "ICBC was created to provide affordable insurance to all B.C. drivers, but years of reckless decisions by the previous government have thrown the corporation into financial chaos," Eby said in a news release. "Today we start making the tough decisions that will stem ICBC's losses, keep insurance affordable and provide enhanced care for people injured in automobile accidents. We're going to make ICBC work for people again."

      ICBC will also double the medical care and recovery cost allowance to $300,000, effective April 1, 2019. This goes to people "catastrophically injured" in a motor-vehicle accident and it will be made retroactive to January 1, 2018.

      This will include doubling wage-loss payments to $740 per week and almost doubling home-support benefits to $280 per week. Funeral cost coverage will be tripled to $7,500 and the death benefit will rise to $30,000.

      According to the government, injured people will have more choice about treatment modalities because kinesiology, acupuncture, counselling, and massage therapy will be added to the list of pre-approved services.

      The third change will be the introduction of an "independent dispute resolution process" for some injury claims arising from motor-vehicle accidents. In the future, they will be adjudicated by B.C.'s Civil Resolution Tribunal. 

      The tribunal will also have authority over the classification of an injury.

      B.C. Green Leader Andrew Weaver has advocated for a no-fault auto-insurance system, which would sharply cut legal costs. Even though the NDP government didn't go that far, Weaver still spoke positively about the reforms.

      "These changes mean that a larger share of our public insurance funds will go directly towards helping British Columbians who suffer accidents recover from their injuries," Weaver said in a news release. “A successful, affordable public insurance system requires government to act in the best interests of the people who participate in it. The B.C. Liberals betrayed the trust of British Columbians when they pillaged ICBC’s capital reserves, and ignored and concealed the evidence-based recommendations put forth by their own consultants. The mess left behind by the Liberals’ reckless fiscal mismanagement necessitates major changes, and I’m glad that the current government is taking this seriously."

      Eby also said that the publicly owned insurance company will hold consultations with customers on "major revisions to the corporation's rate structure". He indicated that the objective will be to ensure that "good drivers pay less, and bad drivers pay more".