As the B.C. government presses ahead with changes designed to rein in injury costs against the Insurance Corp. of B.C., Attorney General David Eby is hinting that the province has another option that personal injury lawyers would like even less.
“In going after these reforms, they should be careful what they wish for, because there won’t be many options left for government after that,” Eby said Thursday, in reference to legal challenges by the Trial Lawyers Association of B.C. that could cost ICBC billions of dollars if they succeed.
One lawsuit challenges Eby’s move to limit expert witnesses in injury cases. The B.C. Supreme Court upheld the challenge last week, and the government has yet to decide whether to appeal or pass new legislation to limit experts to three a side in suits involving more than $100,000 in potential damages.
The trial lawyers have also launched a challenge to Eby’s move to impose a $5,500 cap on “pain and suffering” awards in vehicle accidents, and moving injury claims below $50,000 to a civil resolution tribunal rather than court.
“If those measures fail, the civil resolution tribunal and the cap on pain and suffering awards, those measures that are saving British Columbians about $1 billion a year, it would have a catastrophic impact on rates,” Eby said. “If they fail in court because of the trial lawyers’ challenges of them, it doesn’t leave government a lot of options in terms of how to move forward.”
Asked if that meant switching to no-fault insurance as other provinces have done, Eby only smiled as he entered the daily government caucus meeting.
Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec have no-fault insurance, where a scale of payments applies to specified types of injury. Quebec has what a consultant for the Trial Lawyers Association of B.C. calls “pure no-fault,” where people have no access to courts in motor vehicle accident cases.
Leonard Krog, a lawyer, former NDP MLA and now mayor of Nanaimo, has referred to no-fault insurance as a “meat chart,” where major injuries such as loss of a limb are assigned a fixed monetary award that fails to take into account the particulars of each case.
WorkSafeBC has a similar system for adjudicating awards for people injured on the job.
Eby told Black Press on Tuesday that ICBC’s financial statements for 2018-19 showed that personal injury law firms made about $500 million from the corporation in that year alone.
“This is the first year we’ve reported these numbers, so they definitely were eye-opening for me,” Eby said.