Court ruling quashes another part of cash-saving ICBC reform | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Court ruling quashes another part of cash-saving ICBC reform

Image Credit: ADOBE STOCK
March 09, 2021 - 6:00 AM

A move by the provincial government to help curb the costs of ICBC by moving minor insurance claims out of the courts and to an online tribunal has been found to be unconstitutional.

Launched in April 2019 and promoted by the NDP government as a "cheaper, faster way" to resolve minor injury claims under $50,000, B.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson ruled Mar. 2 that only allowing the claims to be dealt with by the online Civil Resolution Tribunal violated the constitution.

The move came about after the Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia took the government to court over the matter.

“It is not that everybody now needs to get a lawyer and go to court, it is simply that if you believe (ICBC is) wrong, you have the right to go to court, and access the independent courts… rather than in front of an online tribunal,” Trial Lawyers Association of B.C. President Kevin Gourlay told iNFOnews.ca.

The Lawyers Association argued that forcing British Columbians to go through the online Civil Resolution Tribunal if ICBC had decided a person's injuries or accident were minor, stripped individuals of their right to go to court and challenge ICBC's decision.

The Civil Resolution Tribunal came into place in 2016 to deal with property strata disputes and later began dealing with small claims matters up to $5,000. The Supreme court's decision will not affect how the Tribunal deals with strata or small claims decisions.

Justice Hinkson's ruling will come as a blow to the provincial government which moved the claims to the online tribunal in an effort to control what it called "spiralling" legal and administrative costs. To file a claim at the online tribunal costs a maximum of $125 and the online tribunal was expected to save ICBC $390 million.

Gourlay strongly denies the Trial Lawyers Association launched the case in an effort to protect their bottom line.

“The vast majority of people who go to the (Civil Resolution Tribunal) will still be able to settle with their ICBC adjuster directly, there is no need to go to court, there is only the right to go to court,” Gourlay said. “It is frustrating when the suggestion is that we are simply self-interested, I strongly believe in these rights."

The high costs associated with ICBC have been well documented and the provincial government has made movements to reform the organization.

However, in October 2019 it lost another court battle that tried to limit the number of medical expert reports to three in an effort to curb costs.

On May 1, ICBC is due to introduce Basic Vehicle Damage Coverage which will automatically be included in basic insurance. ICBC says the change will save customers on average about 20 per cent a year on auto insurance.

The province did not respond to an iNFOnews.ca request for comment by deadline.


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