The B.C. government is about to take a major step in trying to contain ICBC costs, starting on Monday (April 1).
That's when the Civil Resolution Tribunal will expand its services to hear motor-vehicle injury claims of less than $50,000.
The tribunal will have the authority to determine if these injuries are "minor", and if so, it will try to help the parties resolve the claim.
If the parties can't reach an agreement, the tribunal can issue a binding order.
This service is offered online and includes fee waivers for low-income people.
The minister responsible for ICBC, Attorney General David Eby, has previously indicated that this move will result in most ICBC injury claims not being litigated.
For instance in a legislature debate on February 28, he estimated that the tribunal would handle about 80 percent of the ICBC injury claims currently filed in B.C. Supreme Court.
"Those disputes will be in the jurisdiction of the civil resolution tribunal," Eby said at the time. "It will be a very significant change. That change is effective April 1."
The B.C. government has also tried to reduce costs by allowing plaintiffs to only obtain three expert-witness reports to support legal claims in excess of $100,000.
Only one legal expert will be permitted for claims of less than $100,000.
In the legislature last month, the B.C. Liberal critic for the attorney general, Michael Lee, asked Eby if he was looking at this issue through the lens of cost containment as the minister responsible for ICBC. Or, Lee added, if it was through the lens of being the B.C. government's chief legal officer who's supposed to ensure that people's rights are respected.
"There is, of course, great concern in terms of the need for expert reports, the manner in which this meat chart policy that ICBC now has," Lee said.
Eby responded that he could not let the statement about an ICBC "meat chart" go unchallenged.
"They do not have a meat chart," he declared. "That is incorrect; the member knows it’s incorrect. He shouldn’t repeat it."
Eby also pointed out that in the U.K. only one expert witness is allowed, whereas in Australia, the court must grant leave for an expert witness to appear.
"Is he suggesting that they’re improper?" the attorney general said. "Manitoba and Saskatchewan both have car insurance systems where you’re not allowed to sue. It’s called no-fault. You’re literally not allowed to sue."
Last month, ICBC reported that it had posted an $860-million loss through the first nine months of this fiscal year.