Last Mother's Day, Lumby resident Gen Acton was hoping to spend some quality time with her son who was driving out to see her.

Instead, the next time she saw him, he was lying in a hospital bed.

"When I got the phone call saying he's been in an accident ,he's ok, what they meant was, 'he's alive,'" Acton told

Acton's son, Jake Suttling, was driving his motorcycle through Lavington when he was T-boned by a pickup truck on Highway 6.

He was airlifted to Kelowna General Hospital and underwent six hours of surgery to save his legs. Two days later he had another five-hour surgery to rebuild his pelvis.

"He's basically broken from the waist down," Acton said.

Suttling broke both his femurs, and both his wrists, had a collapsed lung and a torn spleen, destroyed his knees and split four of his teeth along with numerous other injuries.

"I don't know how he survived," Acton said. "You know things are bad when you're issued a trauma social worker for the family."

While the crash happened on May 14 Suttling is still in hospital and has now been transferred to Vernon. He spent his 30th birthday in a hospital bed.

Amazingly his head and spine are intact and he's been told he'll walk again, although it will likely take at least two years.

But there’s no denying that Suttling’s life has been dramatically changed.

Prior to the crash, he was living with his girlfriend in a trailer, now he's getting prepared to go back to live with his parents.

And Acton is navigating the complex world of ICBC's new no-fault insurance.

"I feel for anybody who's involved in an accident because the process is ... a minefield," she said. "Before there was a process where you could hire lawyers and you could get some support, now there is nothing, you can't go to a lawyer and say 'you take on ICBC for me' because they took that away."

In 2021 the provincial government changed the way ICBC insurance worked and moved to a "no-fault" system – insurance premiums were frozen and customers got ICBC rebate cheques.

Vernon lawyer and former president of the Trial Lawyers Association of BC, Bill Dick, said to call it no-fault is a misnomer.

"It's basically a compensation scheme... each party has the same right to claim for compensation as the person that's been hit. It doesn't matter who caused it, everyone gets the same entitlement," he said. "There are no lawyers involved (and) it's really difficult to challenge ICBC, you're basically beholden to whatever ICBC says."

Dick also described the compensation as "very inadequate."

It's too early to know what care Suttling will get, but Acton launched a Gofundme campaign to help with the costs. So far it's raised $14,140.

"We're doing a fundraiser to support Jake because we don't know what his long-term care is going to be and we don't know how long ICBC will support that ongoing care that he needs," she said.

First Suttling has to claim his private insurance, then medical employment insurance, then ICBC.

"By ICBC's own definition, they are the last to pay," she said. "My experience so far had not been positive in terms of the support from ICBC."

Jake Suttling will need a lot of care when he leaves the hospital.
Jake Suttling will need a lot of care when he leaves the hospital.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED: Gen Acton

Acton refused to give ICBC permission to discuss Suttling's case with so the organization couldn't speak directly to his claim.

"We’re doing everything we can to support him in his recovery during this difficult period and ensuring he receives all of the Enhanced Care benefits available to him," ICBC told in an email.

ICBC continued to say that anyone who's injured would receive all benefits "they need and deserve, as soon as, and as long as, they need them."

"Their benefits include immediate access to pre-approved care treatments, activities of daily living benefit, modifications to home and medical equipment if necessary, and eligibility for cash compensation if they are seriously or catastrophically injured," ICBC said. "Enhanced care benefits are provided to eligible customers throughout their recovery journey."

Acton said an ICBC-appointed occupational therapist was soon to visit her home to access what her son will need when he finally leaves the hospital.

As he's bedridden and it takes two people and a lift to get her son out of bed, she knows he needs a lot of complex care.

She doesn't know what that will look like under ICBC.

Acton is also worried about what happens when Suttling is able to walk again but likely unable to go back to his job as a tile fitter.

"We don't know what that looks like from ICBC's perspective. Is this forever? Do they retrain him? We don’t know any of that," she said.

ICBC told that when necessary, vocational rehabilitation is provided.

"The goal of vocational rehabilitation is to return our customer to their pre-injury employer if possible or to the same or similar field of work and to bring our customer as close as possible to their pre-cash earning capacity," ICBC said. "Vocational rehabilitation is considered when medical information and discussions with our customer’s employer indicate they can’t return to their previous employer or additional training would be required to allow them to perform alternate duties for their previous employer."

However, Acton hasn't received anything concrete from ICBC.

"Whenever I've asked the question I just get read the protocol list. There's no empathy, there's no kindness, there's no compassion. There's no, 'this is a human being,' this is just a protocol," she said.

Again, as Acton wouldn't give ICBC permission to speak to her son's case, the organization couldn't respond to the allegation.

Better days, Jake Suttling poses on a bike.
Better days, Jake Suttling poses on a bike.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED: Gen Acton

So would it be better if Suttling could sue the other driver – who has admitted it was their fault – for compensation?

Dick says it would be.

"In the old system, you had the option to bring an action against the driver who was responsible and who's at fault to pursue restorative justice," he said. "You can make a significant claim for pain and suffering and make a claim for both past and future loss of earnings."

A recent case from Kelowna that predates the new ICBC regime illustrates the disparity. A nursing student who was T-boned and left in chronic pain won $1.8 million in court. The majority of the claim was made up of loss of future earnings, but the court did order $220,000 for pain, suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life. Originally she sued for $2.8 million.

In another case from last summer, an aspiring young Kamloops law student was awarded $3.2 million after a car crash curbed her career in law and left her suffering migraines several times a week. Again the majority of the claim was for loss of future income, but she was awarded $160,000 for pain and suffering. She originally sued for almost $10 million.

Not all crashes are as severe but still involve large payouts.

A BC woman who was involved in four minor car crashes over an eight-year period was awarded $737,000 in March after the court found she suffered PTSD, anxiety, and depression along with multiple long-lasting injuries since the crashes.

In 2021, a Kamloops businessman was awarded $550,000 after he was rear-ended in what was thought to be a minor fender bender. However, the court found that the crash had lasting cognitive effects on the man.

While the cases appear to show large payouts for those involved in accidents, ICBC says it's not straightforward.

"Under the former litigation-based model, there is no certainty Mr. Suttling would be receiving the care and recovery he needs now and may need over his lifetime. If he were to sue under the former model, a trial may have taken years and his lawyer would have likely taken at least one-third of any settlement as fees – a settlement which would need to last for his lifetime," it said. "Unlike a court settlement, Enhanced Care’s medical and rehabilitation benefits don’t run out... if you suffer a setback to your collision-related injuries down the road, you can access further care and recovery benefits."

However, Acton points out that she has reduced her work schedule by two-thirds to assist her son, and ICBC won't compensate for that. Under the old system that may have been covered.

The new system also gives little recourse if someone doesn't agree with what ICBC wants to provide them.

Unhappy parties are left to go through the province's online court system, the BC Civil Resolution Tribunal.

"It's supposed to be an access to justice but it turns out not to be at all," Dick said. "(It's) a difficult process to navigate on one's own."

While it's impossible to say whether Suttling will get enough of the support he needs in the future, Acton says he's in a good position because he can go and live with her.

"But if he wasn't, where would he be then?" she asks.

Currently, she says there are a lot of unknowns.

Damage to the vehicle.
Damage to the vehicle.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED: Gen Acton

Jake Suttling's Gofundme campaign can be found here.

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