The Insurance Corporation of B.C. is placing a $5,500 limit on payouts for pain and suffering, while increasing the maximum payout for people killed or seriously injured in vehicle accidents.
To stem the losses from rising accident rates and an 80 per cent increase in injury claim costs in the past seven years, ICBC is also introducing a claim resolution tribunal to settle disputed claims without going to court.
The overall accident benefit maximum goes from $150,000 to $300,000 for serious injury claims, including nursing care and recovery, medical, dental, occupational and funeral costs.
ICBC has seen a steep increase in the costs for minor injury claims, now averaging about $30,000 each. A third of that cost is legal costs, both to ICBC for lawyers and expert reports, and to customers who pay lawyers to sue the corporation.
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The legal definition of a minor injury is being developed, Attorney General David Eby said Tuesday. It is expected to include strains, sprains, mild whiplash, aches and pains, cuts and bruises, with cases to be determined by medical professionals independent of ICBC.
The changes are to take effect April 1, 2019, and are expected to save the corporation about $1 billion a year when they take effect, Eby said. In the meantime, rates are up eight per cent this year for the average driver, combining basic and optional insurance provided by ICBC.
ICBC board chair Joy MacPhail said the increase to major injury payouts is overdue, since they haven’t changed since 1991.
“These changes make the injured customer our top priority, redirecting payments away from legal costs into significantly enhancing the care and treatments for anyone who is injured in a crash,” MacPhail said.
Jane Dyson, executive director of Disability Alliance B.C. said her organization has been advocating for increased support for seriously injured people for more than a decade.
“The doubling of the overall allowance for medical care and recovery is a significant improvement,” Dyson said.