What Do ICBC's 2010 Annual Report and Hot Coffee Have in Common?
ICBC’s 2010 Annual Report was recently released to little media attention. Perhaps little attention accompanied the release because there were few exciting facts in the report. At $361 million of Net Income last year alone ICBC continues to be very financially sound and stable.
This stability, however, is newsworthy on its own. British Columbia has Canada’s fullest tort system for motor vehicle collision victims. That means if you are injured through the fault of another you will have access to more meaningful compensation here than anywhere else in Canada. The important underlying story here is that victim rights don’t need to be stripped (as other Provinces have done or proposed) to have a viable auto insurance system.
This story dovetails nicely into another newsworthy matter. HBO’s much anticipated documentary Hot Coffee has now aired. This movie documents, amongst other things, the infamous story of the 1990’s American lawsuit against McDonald’s after a patron burned herself with their coffee. This is a classic example of frivolous lawsuits run a muck, right? Watch the movie and decide for yourself. You can click here to listen to my take on the Hot Coffee case as discussed with Charles Adler last year.
If you don’t have time to watch the documentary I’ll summarize one of the important points made. Stories of a broken system and frivolous claims are often bandied about by the insurance industry. These generate a lot more headlines than stories of financial insurance company stability.
The insurance industry often uses the momentum of these stories to argue that “reform” is necessary because the system is failing due to abuse. As Hot Coffee illustrates, it is important to step back and scrutinize any claims that victim rights need to be stripped in order to have a functioning insurance system. This usually is not the case. When tort reformers ask for proof, point proudly to British Columbia’s full tort system and ICBC’s 2010 Annual Report.