ICBC’s costs for injury settlements and lawsuits are a major part of its deficit. (Black Press files)

ICBC’s costs for injury settlements and lawsuits are a major part of its deficit. (Black Press files)

ICBC lowball injury offers aren’t driving up court costs, ministry says

B.C. auto insurance monopoly struggling with rising legal, settlement costs

A review of Insurance Corp. of B.C.’s rising injury claim cases finds no evidence for a common complaint that the provincial monopoly makes low offers, the Attorney General’s ministry said Wednesday.

“ICBC is not responsible in any observable, systemic way for making inappropriate offers or inappropriately pressing cases and this generating legal costs,” says a report compiled by ministry lawyers.

“Instead, the claims files reveal beyond dispute that the longer the time taken to resolve a claim, the higher the cost.”

The review was conducted last summer using aggregate data from claim files, plus 100 randomly selected claims that were settled between 2013 and 2017. They included major or catastrophic industry claims and minor injury claims, some where claimants hired lawyers and some where lawsuits were filed.

Soaring accident rates and an 80 per cent increase in claims costs over seven years have plagued ICBC, prompting Attorney General David Eby to introduce changes that include a $5,500 limit on payouts for pain and suffering. That cap takes effect April 1.

RELATED: ICBC to cap pain and suffering payouts to stem losses

RELATED: ICBC moves to tighten safe driver discount rules

Minor injury claim costs have increased steeply, averaging about $30,000 each by last year. A third of that is legal costs, both to ICBC for lawyers and expert reports, and to customers who hire lawyers to sue the corporation.

The settlement cap and a new claim resolution system to keep cases out of court are expected to cut as much as $1 billion from ICBC’s costs. Another change that ICBC board chair Joy MacPhail called long overdue is increasing the maximum benefit for serious injury claims from $150,000 to $300,000.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

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