BC Psychologists Speak Out Against ICBC Plan to Label Psychiatric Conditions as "Minor Injuries"
As recently discussed the BC Government, at the lobbying of ICBC, are trying to pass a law reducing the rights of British Columbians who are injured by distracted, impaired or otherwise at fault drivers.
As part of the overhaul ICBC is trying to label all psychological and psychiatric conditions as “minor” injuries, taking away the judicial rights of people who suffer these injuries in collisions and capping compensation for these.
Today the BC Psychological Association weighed in on these proposed laws and unsurprisingly are harshly critical. In discussing the medical reality of psychological injuries the BCPA notes as follows –
The British Columbia Psychological Association opposes the inclusion of “a psychological or psychiatric condition” in the definition of “minor injury” in Bill 20. We feel it will be detrimental to the health and care of British Columbians who sustain injuries in motor vehicle accidents.
Under Bill 20, any psychological or psychiatric condition arising from a motor vehicle accident is deemed to be minor, unless it has not resolved within 12 months from the MVA, and also meets, as yet undefined, prescribed criteria.
BCPA disagrees and takes the positions that:
- Psychological injuries are not minor injuries. Each individual is unique in their symptoms.
- It is very difficult to determine the twelve-month outcome of a psychological injury as it may be affected by pain, restrictions in functioning due to physical injuries, and pre-accident history, including prior history of depression, anxiety, substance use, adverse early childhood experiences, including neglect and trauma, poor coping styles, and cultural factors.
- The duration of symptoms after an event is not an appropriate scientific measure of the severity of the psychological injury.
- Psychological conditions may arise at different times after a collision, depending upon a number of factors. Many potentially severe psychological conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety, may have an initial onset shortly after, or months after, a collision.
- Psychological conditions may appear to resolve, only to recur at a later date due to a change in circumstance, prolonged recovery, or a triggering event such as a return to work, a return to driving, or anniversary of the collision.
- Bill 20 gives Government the authority to make regulations with respect to assessment, diagnosis and treatment of minor injuries (including psychological injuries). Because of the unique circumstances of each individual, psychological injuries do not lend themselves to such an approach. Each individual must be assessed by a qualified psychology professional and prescribed the treatment that will best lead to an optimal recovery for them.
- If the appropriate treatment is not commenced as psychological symptoms manifest, it may lead to prolonged suffering, delayed return to work, impaired activities of daily living, and in increased treatment and wage loss costs in the long run.
- Removing psychological and psychiatric conditions from the “minor injury” designation will help achieve the goal of people receiving better care and optimal recovery in the shortest time possible.
- BCPA is also concerned with the proposed amendments to the Civil Resolution Tribunal Act.
- Under the Act, the determination of whether an injury is “minor” and the entitlement to benefits from ICBC, is exclusively given to the Civil Resolution Tribunal.
- Those suffering from psychological conditions are ill-equipped to deal with an appeal process on their own.
- It is also unlikely that many of those people will be able to have the assistance of a lawyer in this process.
- This process, online and/or in person, also puts at a disadvantage the elderly, people without computers or computer skills, those with poor English language skills, and those of limited means.
- BCPA applauds this government’s efforts to address the mental health and addictions issues of British Columbians, but classifying psychological and psychiatric conditions as “minor” runs the risk of taking a step back in the treatment of psychological injuries arising from a car accident.