B.C. attorney general's report suggests reducing motorists' time limit for filing ICBC legal claims

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      Under the Limitation Act, British Columbians have two years to file a court case in most civil wrongs.

      But a new report published by the Ministry of Attorney General suggests considering shortening this time to 18 months for motor-vehicle claims.

      The 39-page document was prepared by the legal services branch.

      It states that this shortened time line should only be implemented if it's accompanied by another reform: a formal pre-action protocol.

      This protocol would "compel claimants to describe their claim in much greater detail before commencement of a lawsuit".

      "Making this dovetail with a shorter limitation period would need to be done carefully," the report states. "Cost consequences would attach to a failure to abide by the protocol."

      The report also recommends creating a "roster of independent, qualified medical experts as a source of objective assessment of soft-tissue injury (i.e. whiplash)".

      These suggestions were included a report that largely focused on the review of legal files involving injury claims and property damage.

      A February 6 Ministry of Attorney General news release emphasized that the review found "no support" for concerns that ICBC's legal practices resulted in inappropriate low settlement offers or cases unnecessarily going to trial.

      The news release made no mention of the report's suggestion to shorten the limitation period for claims by 25 percent.

      Sometimes, trial lawyers recommend waiting as long as legally possible to file claims in case collision-related medical issues arise long afterward. Then these issues can be included in a notice of civil claim.

      ICBC is drowning in red ink

      This new report comes as the Crown-owned insurance company is in a perilous financial position.

      ICBC posted a $582 million loss in the first six months of the current fiscal year.

      In response, it has applied to the B.C. Utilities Commission for a 6.3 percent increase in basic insurance rates.

      ICBC was granted interim approval, effective April 1, pending the BCUC hearing submissions from interveners.

      This follows a 6.4-percent hike in basic insurance last year.

      The minister responsible for ICBC, David Eby, blamed the former B.C. Liberal government for setting a "financial Dumpster fire" before leaving office.

      In 2016–17, ICBC lost $913 million; the following year, that rose to a $1.3-billion deficit.

      ICBC has capped awards for pain and suffering for minor injuries at $5,500.

      Meanwhile, the B.C. government has decided to create a tribunal to deal with some injury claims.

      That has the Trial Lawyers Association of B.C. contemplating legal action, according to a recent Vancouver Sun article.

      The B.C. Greens have called upon ICBC to consider no-fault insurance, similar to what's offered by WorkSafe B.C., but so far Eby has expressed no interest in going down that road.