As previously discussed, ICBC and the insurance lobby are on the cusp of persuading the BC Government to pass laws capping ‘minor’ injuries and reducing judicial remedies for those caught by the cap.
Assuming the insurance lobby get their way what will ‘minor’ injury caps look like? The details are incomplete but this is what is known right now.
Who gets stuck with a cap?
If you are injured by the negligence of a distracted, impaired or otherwise careless driver you are having your judicial rights for non-pecuniary damages (pain and suffering) substituted with a government created artificial cap. In a bizarre twist the Government is proposing to increase the benefits available to the careless driver if they are also injured at the cost of stripping some of the faultless party’s rights.
How much is the minor injury cap?
It is proposed that the cap will be set at $5,500.
How much of a reduction is this from my current legal rights?
A cap already exists across all of Canada (BC included) for non-pecuniary damages in negligence cases. This cap was set by the Supreme Court of Canada in the late 1970’s at $100,000 and is indexed for inflation. In today’s dollars non-pecuniary damages can be assessed up to, approximately, $370,000.
What is a “minor” injury?
I put the word “minor” in quotations because the definition will likely capture many claims most people would never consider to be minor. It is not a medical term, rather, it is a phrase invented by the insurance industry.
The Government has been silent on the exact definition they will use however BC’s Attorney General has stated that the defininon will include “sprains, strains, mild whiplash, cuts, bruises and anxiety and stress“. These all sound minor but the devil is in the details. What if injuries become chronic problems?
ICBC hints that chronic injuries can get out of the cap however there’s a catch. Not only will the injuries need to be chronic but also significantly disabling. ICBC notes that “if the injury impacts your life for more than 12 months – for example, you’re still not able to go to work or school, have to modify your work hours or duties, or you’re unable to care for yourself – it will no longer be considered minor.”.
So, if ICBC gets their way “minor” will include injuries which can totally disable you for over 11 months. They will also include permanent injuries so long as you can continue to “go to work or school“.
Who decides if my injury is “minor”?
The Government has been silent on this other than stating “a medical professional” will decide if your injury is “minor“. It is unclear exactly who this medical professional will be.
Is ICBC Foolproof in Designating Injuries as “minor”?
Of course not. In ICBC’s own words they consider many injuries minor that are, in reality, complex and costly.
What if I want to challenge the designation?
The BC Government has noted that disputes over “the classification of an injury” will be funneled to the BC Civil Resolution Tribunal.
This means that if ICBC (or whatever ‘medical professional’ the government designates as the decision maker) says you have minor injuries you will not be able to have this challenged in court. Instead you will be forced into a tribunal system. The tribunal is not presently equipped to handle cases of medical complexity. They currently only deal with strata fee disputes and very minor small claims.
As of now this Tribunal does not allow people to be represented by lawyers with s. 20 of the law creating the tribunal stating that the default position for hearings is that “the parties are to represent themselves“.
The Tribunal also does not have the ability to make binding judgements in Small Claims cases with s. 56.1 of the Civil Resolution Tribunal Act allowing a losing litigant to simply ‘object’ to the result. The law states that “A party that is given notice of a final decision in relation to a tribunal small claim may make a notice of objection…..If a party makes a notice of objection under this section the final decision is not binding on any party“.
The above are just a few of the shortcomings the BC Government will have to overhaul if they stick to their plan to funnel ‘minor’ injury claims to the Tribunal.
When will the cap come into force?
The BC Government is proposing that people injured by negligent drivers on or after April 1, 2019 will be caught by the cap.
Can I do anything about this?
Yes. It is not too late to take action and tell the government ‘no to caps’ if you think this is a bad idea.