Following the Ministry of the Attorney General's February 6, 2020, announcement, on March 4, 2020, David Eby, AG, introduced Bill 11 – Attorney General Statutes (Vehicle Insurance) Amendment Act, 2020 ("Bill 11"), which includes the proposed changes to ICBC and the current insurance system.
Last month, the government also published a paper which provides an overview of these intended changes as the Province moves towards the "no-fault" insurance model that takes effect on May 1, 2021, and will be known as the "Enhanced Care" coverage system.
Although we won't have a complete picture until the proposed legislation is approved later this spring, with the February publication and Bill 11 the government has offered some further details as to what British Columbians can expect in terms of benefits coverage and ICBC's new role.
Since the February 6, 2020, announcement, the government has also provided more information about the upcoming changes to the Evidence Act which will affect motor vehicle litigation proceedings.
Benefits and Coverage
If Bill 11 receives royal assent, all British Columbians will be eligible for medical care and rehabilitation benefits up to a maximum of at least $7.5 million as opposed to the $300,000 limit under the current model. This eligibility is irrespective of a person's degree of fault or their role in a motor vehicle accident (pedestrian, passenger, driver etc.).
Within this coverage limit, there will also be various "sub-limits" for different categories of medical and rehabilitation benefits such as personal care expenses. While some of these sub-limits are discussed in the February publication, the details will ultimately be finalized and passed through regulations in the fall of this year.
British Columbians can also expect a 60% increase in available wage loss benefits to a maximum of $1,200 a week or 90% of net wage loss for those earning up to $93,400 annually. Bill 11 also introduces new benefits for caregivers, students, and minors amongst other new entitlements. In the February publication, the government has also indicated that while ICBC may offer optional coverage top-ups, British Columbians will be able to purchase additional coverage from private insurance companies.
Changes to ICBC
The government intends to introduce legislation that will require ICBC to assist each claimant with the claims process, to inform claimants of their entitlements to various benefits, and to ensure that claimants actually receive those benefits. In essence, tasks and responsibilities carried out by plaintiff's counsel under the current insurance model will be statutorily delegated to ICBC. This is a huge shift in the role of ICBC, as it means the insurance provider will assume the primary responsibility for helping injured parties access compensation following their involvement in motor vehicle accidents.
In an effort to hold ICBC accountable, the government will establish a new and independent "Fairness Office" and appoint an ICBC fairness officer tasked with the authority to review and resolve ICBC customer complaints. Additionally, the Civil Resolution Tribunal, also independent from ICBC, will continue to provide dispute resolution processes when claimants disagree with ICBC during the claims process.
Changes to the Evidence Act
After the proposed amendments are introduced, each party in a fast-track litigation proceeding will be limited to one expert and one expert report. In all other actions, parties will be limited to three experts and three expert reports. However, the courts will be able to exercise judicial discretion to allow additional reports where appropriate. Parties can also agree to use more experts without the need to file a court application.
The proposed regulations will also limit the total recoverable amounts available to the successful party in a motor vehicle action for the cost of each expert report ($3,000) and disbursements (5% of the settlement or judgment).
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.