ICBC has just applied to the B.C. Utilities Commission for a whopping 4.9% hike in basic insurance rates. Yet again, ICBC is laying the blame on personal injury lawyers. It’s long been known that ICBC uses every opportunity to thwart vehicle accident victims from hiring lawyers. Their ongoing rhetoric is that we greedy lawyers will just take a portion of a predetermined claim amount, so you’ll end up with less. And when lawyers get involved, unreasonable demands and rising legal costs fuel rate hikes. Do not believe it.
Let’s look at some facts:
ICBC is a huge profit-maker. In April 2013, the Consumers’ Association of Canada released a scathing report. It said that ICBC has been turned into a cash cow for the Provincial Government and has gone from maximizing public good to maximizing profits. Simply put, lesser claim payouts mean greater profits, as does overcharging debt-ridden consumers for basic and optional premiums, which by the way, includes Canada’s highest insurance tax (4.4%). According to CAC, the BC Government has scooped up $677 million from ICBC’s profits since 2010 and predicts it will reach a staggering $1.2 billion by 2015. ICBC is still hugely profitable despite its exorbitant administrative costs. According to a Finance Ministry audit in 2012, 613 staffers earned more than $100,000 in 2012 and many upper managers earned well over $400,000. Even our prime minister doesn’t earn than much.
In addition to managements’ bloated salaries, ICBC has made many bad policy decisions. Examples include the “Low Velocity Impact” claim, wherein no expense is spared in trying lengthy and expensive jury cases based on bad science; that is, the presumption that there is a direct correlation between the value of vehicle damage and injury to the person. Simply not true. Another example is ICBC’s shift to “committee decisions,” presumably based on the belief that a bunch of people will get it right. This approach effectively removes individual adjuster and defence counsel authority to value and settle claims. This unwieldy approach undermines the morale of its adjusters and legal counsel as well as creating an impediment to mediating cases. Mediation, once trumpeted by ICBC as a cost-saving and expedient mode of settling cases, is currently not a practical means of settlement resolution as the adjuster now has no real authority to settle.
ICBC blames rising injury claim payouts and soaring legal costs for the proposed increase. The suggestion that lawyers’ fees are responsible for the increased payout to victims is dishonest. Plaintiff lawyer fees, usually a percentage of the amount recovered, hasn’t changed in decades and indeed is capped by the Law Society of B.C. It’s commonplace for ICBC to tell victims its offer of settlement is appropriate and if they hire a lawyer, the lawyer would simply take their fees out of the “already generous” offer and the poor victim would be worse off. This is nonsense. More and more injured victims hire lawyers because they know that they are not being fairly represented by ICBC. They are encouraged to settle quickly and cheaply before the full medical prognosis and future consequences of their injuries come to light.
ICBC’s mandate is to minimize all claim payouts; it is never to properly compensate its insured. Many injury victims turn to lawyers because they’re not getting reasonable treatment from ICBC. I’ve successfully handled thousands of personal injury cases and ICBC’s “that’s-all-there-is” offer to my clients prior to my involvement has historically proven to be untrue. Remember, your “friendly” adjuster works for ICBC, not for you.
Do I trust ICBC? Not one bit! It acts against its own insureds and turns the unfortunate injured victims into its enemy, to spy on, beat down and attack, using the monies better spent on fair settlements, with the help of its own hired doctors and other “experts” who wouldn’t “bite the hand that feeds them.”
D. Glenn Einfeld is a highly knowledgeable and experienced BC personal injury lawyer and BC motorcycle accident lawyer who has successfully litigated many ICBC claims and other insurance claims, including out of province claims, wrongful death, brain injury, spinal cord injury, whiplash, soft tissue injury, and all other serious injury claims.