In a move to bring the vehicle insurance under control, the BC Government announced Thursday it is transforming Insurance Corporation of B.C. (ICBC) by removing lawyers and legal costs from the system to reduce rates and substantially increase care benefits, making public auto insurance work for British Columbians again.
The government said legislation will be introduced in the coming weeks that will lower ICBC premiums by approximately 20% - an average of $400 in savings per driver.
At the same time, maximum care and treatment benefits for anyone injured in a crash will increase to at least $7.5 million, and new benefits will provide care for those most seriously injured, for as long as they need it. These benefits will be available to every British Columbian without having to hire a lawyer.
"It's time for change at ICBC,” said BC Premier John Horgan in a media release Thursday. “The old government ignored ICBC's problems, allowing it to become a system that made lawyers rich, while drivers paid too much for insurance.
“We're going to transform ICBC to lower rates for B.C. drivers - saving you an average of $400 on your insurance, while also improving care for people who have been injured in a crash."
These improvements will be achieved by removing most legal fees and other costs associated with the current litigation-based system. The new care-based insurance system is forecast to remove more than $1.5 billion in the first full year, savings that will be passed on to ICBC customers through lowered insurance rates.
"You shouldn't need a lawyer to access the benefits you've paid for,” said BC Attorney General David Eby.
“By removing expensive lawyers and legal fees from the system, we are making ICBC work for British Columbians again with more affordable insurance rates and much better coverage, so anyone injured in a crash gets the care they need."
To give British Columbians confidence that they will be treated fairly, the planned legislation will require ICBC, by law, to assist every person who makes a claim and endeavour to ensure they receive all of the care and benefits to which they are entitled. Customers who still have complaints or disputes about their claim, benefit payments or fairness issues wil not need a lawyer to have them resolved. They will have recourse through:
- the Civil Resolution Tribunal, which is independent of ICBC;
- the B.C. ombudsperson; and
- the upcoming ICBC fairness officer, who will be appointed by government to ensure greater independence from ICBC.
As ICBC transitions to this new care-based model, government's previous work to improve the finances at ICBC means there will be no basic rate change this year. The 0% basic rate change that takes effect on April 1, 2020, is the lowest any government has delivered in almost a decade. Without significant changes, rates would need to continue to rise by about 35% over the next five years.
However, Kris Sims of the Canadian Taxpayer’s Association said while she applauds the government’s effort to douse the dumpster fire at ICBC, it’s discouraging to see drivers being left with even fewer choices than they had before.
“"This is like rotating the tires on your broken-down car, when, what you really need is some new cars to choose from,” Sims said.
“B.C. drivers are forced to deal with the government-controlled ICBC monopoly while paying the highest rates in Canada,” Sims adds.
“Drivers need more choices in auto insurance, not fewer, and today’s announcement means that people who are injured in vehicle crashes will be the ones with even fewer choices.”
Highlights of Enhanced Care coverage:
Government will introduce legislation to create the new care-based system, which would take effect on May 1, 2021, so that British Columbians will benefit from:
- average savings of $400 on their premium, compared with the previous full-year policy;
- care and treatment benefits that are 24 times higher than today, up to at least $7.5 million;
- wage loss coverage that is 60% higher than today; and
- new benefits - such as benefits for full-time students, caregivers, those working in the family business or those approaching retirement, who suffer income loss following a crash - replacing lump-sum payments that were previously awarded only through lengthy and expensive litigation.
- Similar care-based insurance systems exist in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Those systems have kept rate changes steady, near 0%.
- Under Enhanced Care coverage, a driver who is responsible for a crash will continue to be found at fault. This will remain a primary factor in what drivers pay for their insurance. If a driver causes a crash, their premiums will go up.
- Those injured by dangerous drivers convicted of certain Criminal Code offences, such as impaired driving, will still be able to sue for additional compensation.