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I.C.B.C. rate hike; Fault v No Fault ICBC/WorkSafe BC; Personal Injury Contingency Fees; + Balanced Budget Legislation
  Sep 06, 2014

Question #1
Question 1- According to an online news report of Global News and reporter Amy Judd dated August 31, 2015 Mark Blucher, president and CEO of ICBC suggests that “ICBC may need to ask for a 6.7 per cent increase in basic insurance rates...due to unexpected and rapid escalation of personal injury claims.” “ICBC says that bodily injury claims, including for pain and suffering, topped $2 billion for the first time in 2014 and are expected to escalate to $2.3 billion in 2015.” Do your support and are you willing to accept a rate increase to your annual automobile insurance of 6.7% per year?
Yes    31 %
No    67 %
Undecided/Don't know    2 %
Question #2
Would you support a change to the personal injury compensation scheme in the Province of British Columbia currently used to manage personal injuries from motor vehicle accidents in British Columbia to a mix of fault and no fault where only more serious cases were permitted to go court and other more minor injuries such as whiplash and soft tissue injuries were not permitted to go to court or were capped at amounts of compensation in order to reduce claims and court costs?
Yes    60 %
No    34 %
Question #3
The Law Society of British Columbia permits its lawyer members practicing personal injury law to charge 33 percent of total injury claim amounts concluded by settlement, mediation and sometimes higher percentage from trial with the courts approval. In your opinion is the 33% amount:
Too high    60 %
Too low    14 %
Just right    22 %
Question #4
(To those respondents who answered “too high” in question #3) What do you believe the highest percentage of contingency fee should be permitted to be charged by lawyers?
10%    4 %
15%    15 %
20%    36 %
25%    43 %
Other    2 %
Question #5
In a September 1 article in the HuffPost British Columbia, BC Liberal Transportation Minister Todd Stone suggested that high fraudsters are the reason that claims costs are so high? In your opinion based on your experience, the experience of others close to you, or your general opinion which is the likely reason that ICBC is confronting a financial crisis? (Pick up to two).
Too many claimants seeking too much in compensation    17 %
Bad drivers not paying attention    26 %
Fraudulent claims    3 %
Lawyers demanding too much money    17 %
BC Justices and Judges awarding too much money    8 %
BC Government taking ICBC profits that should be used for lower premiums and education    28 %
Question #6
Currently ICBC policy is to declare a driver in breach of contract in any circumstance when police have indicated evidence of alcohol notwithstanding whether or not that driver is legally impaired. Do your support or oppose a zero tolerance policy for ICBC and breach of contract in any circumstance where police have indicated that alcohol was involved?
Support    52 %
Oppose    38 %
Undecided/Don't know    10 %
Question #7
Do you support or oppose an ICBC policy declaring a breach of contract in circumstances involving an automobile accident where texting has been identified?
Support    48 %
Oppose    46 %
Undecided/Don't know    6 %
Question #8
In a hypothetical situation a BC driver injured in a motor vehicle accident is unable to work for a period of a year before returning to work. This driver after one year off work hires a lawyer to deal with ICBC. In your opinion is it ethical for the lawyer to claim a percentage of compensation from the amount of income lost prior to he or she being retained by the injured person?
This is an unethical legal practice    64 %
It isn't about ethics, it is a matter for negotiation between client and lawyer    36 %
Undecided/Don't know    10 %
Question #9
Small Claims courts in British Columbia have limits of compensation one can sue for up to $25,000. Known as the People's Court do you believe that lawyers should be permitted or prohibited to represent people in these courts?
Permitted    50 %
Prohibited    46 %
Undecided/Don't know    4 %
Question #10
Would you agree or disagree to a ban on lawyers from small claims courts where compensation sought is under $10,000?
Agree    77 %
Disagree    23 %
Question #11
In workplace accidents injured workers are not permitted access to the courts for compensation for pain and suffering. In your opinion should workers more seriously injured be permitted access to the courts for additional compensation for pain and suffering as motor vehicle accident victims presently are?
Yes    54 %
No    29 %
Undecided/Don't know    17 %
Question #12
Is it necessary that balanced budgets be legislated in British Columbia?
Yes    26 %
No    56 %
Undecided/Don't know    18 %
More than two third of B.C. lower mainland drivers/premium payers are not willing to accept a 6.7% increase in I.C.B.C. basic insurance rates. Of 'decided' respondents, nearly two thirds support a change to the personal injury scheme to a mix of fault and no fault. A similar number of 'decided' respondents support a similar fault and no fault mix for injured workers in the province.
BC premium payers believe that BC lawyers 33% contingency fee agreements in personal injury matters is too high. A more acceptable ceiling for contingency fee agreements is around 25% or slightly less than that, (and likely less where settlement occurs long before trial). Clearly BC drivers are of the opinion that lawyers are abusing their authority to charge percentage fees.
(54%) of BC drivers blame bad drivers for not paying attention and the BC Government for taking ICBC profits for financial deficiencies and balanced budgets. This is twice the number of respondents who blame inflated legal bills and high court judgments, although the 3 categories encompass (80%) of the blame for premium costs.
Fraudulent claims attract only nominal blame from respondents in context of the actual problem of cost of such claims and other embellished claims which are difficult to prove in as harsh a term as fraudulent (difficult to prove at any time). (We did not include ICBC financial mismanagement as a response choice, given that respondents were allowed to pick two of the response choices (and often did so) and the fact that one of the response choices directed the respondent to the idea of profits going back to government – not a secret – such a response choice might have created more problems).
Nearly 6 in ten 'decided' respondents believe any evidence of alcohol should trigger a breach of insurance of contract is circumstances where a motor vehicle accident has occurred. Respondents are split on whether evidence of 'texting' at the scene of the accident should trigger a similar breach of contract declaration.
Two thirds of BC drivers are of the opinion that lawyers retained by personal injury claimants should not be able to charge fees on lost income that has accrued on past lost wages to date deeming the conduct “unethical” with one third believing to one degree or another that this is a private negotiation between lawyer and client.
Two thirds of BC drivers are of the opinion that lawyers retained by personal injury claimants should not be able to charge fees on lost income that has accrued on past lost wages to date deeming the conduct “unethical” with one third believing to one degree or another that this is a private negotiation between lawyer and client.
The problem is that BC personal injury lawyers are grooming client case loads telling prospective clients with lost income on the table to give them a call back later, thus avoiding the weight of the work on the retainer until some money has accrued to it a type of freeloading on the injury victim giving anchor to the reputation of personal injury lawyers as “ambulance chasers”.
BC drivers are split on whether or not lawyers should be permitted or prohibited from small claims courts. Over 8 in 10 decided respondents are clear that lawyers be banned from small claims actions where damages sought are less than $10,000. A clear majority of BC drivers do not find legislated balanced budgets necessary.
Reasons for Public Policy Judgment – Glen P. Robbins
Question 1 informs us that BC drivers (who are also premium payers) do not support or accept the rate increase suggested by ICBC. The reasons for this are many and varied through anecdote and response and not necessarily related to the increased amount of insurance premium they would be required to pay. For many respondents it is the principle of the thing.
Many respondents are also aware that the BC Liberal government takes ICBC profits to shore up deficits than presented as balanced budgets. This hampers ICBC's ability to credibly run its operation separate from the government and gives the impression that premium increases are really just tax hikes
The whole idea of the focus of importance on balanced budgets is coming under greater scrutiny particularly with the recent announcement in the federal election campaign by Liberal leader Justin Trudeau that he would run deficits. BC drivers and premium payers have abandoned balanced budgets as a legal necessity.
This theory is further supported by the response in question 6 where nearly (30%) of respondents blame the Government of British Columbia for taking these monies from ICBC and into general revenues and away from their potential use to reduce premiums to safe drivers (presumably) or for education. Once again, question 6 informs us that British Columbians do not have confidence in other drivers to the extent of some noteworthy correlation between this response and those respondents who support the increase to the insurance premium from question 1.
Fraud is not accepted as the source of the problem for increase costs, a response choice which likely underestimates the problem of fraud – but is understandable given that BC drivers take a dim view of the perceived lower skill level of some other drivers and know that the government is taking money from ICBC for other purposes other than what they believe it is intended for I.C.B.C. such as education toward safe driving.
Lawyers and the court are found equally to blame as 1) bad drivers and 2) the BC Liberal government with (25%) of BC premium payers seeing the legal process as the problem. Part of the solution offered though indirect of the inherent problem (the rising cost of claims) is offered through reduced contingency fee charges. Some respondents who chose higher legal contingency fees were more likely to believe that higher contingency percentage fees actually make it easier for ICBC to settle claims as claimants seek to save money resolving claims without legal counsel.
Our questions relating to breach of contract in circumstances involving alcohol (zero tolerance) and 'texting' reflect a pool of premium payers essentially split on the issue of whether an insurance contract should be canceled where alcohol or texting is involved. A noteworthy minority of respondents are willing to save a driver not yet convicted of a crime from being held in breach of the insurance contract. Yet, more drivers are willing to forgive persons in breach of texting and driving prohibitions when evidence particularly well developed in the United States which clearly indicates that texting is as big a problem as drinking driving. The smaller percentage in favour of punitive action against texting drivers is likely linked to the fact that texting is a relatively new phenomenon and as a source of vehicle accidents is just now becoming well known when compared to drinking and driving, even when the consumption of alcohol is only nominal and the person may well be able to operate a vehicle.
This would suggest that more money is needed to educate drivers to stop 'texting' while driving. It also suggests that the threat of a fine may not be enough. ICBC may have to get tougher on 'texting' in terms of reference to breach of contract provisions of the enactment.
BC drivers want access to the court for serious injury, it is the reason they purchase insurance, to protect life and limb, and property. Lawyers are not cheap and it cost money to carry claims. ICBC must do more to convince British Columbia premium payers that they are working in earnest to settle claims reasonably as the Corporation's reputation as being stubborn in negotiations with persons representing themselves remains a stigma for the Corporation among many premium payers.
If claimants were able to realize their opportunity to go to court to handle their own claims without the expectation of confronting a lawyer in small claims, there may also be benefit in terms of lower claims costs as these claimants who desire compensation but want to achieve a result on their own don't want to be bullied in a court intended for them by a lawyer. Surely, insurance adjusters and other personnel with ICBC could represent the corporation in court where they don't already.
The bottom line is that ICBC will be hard pressed to credibly raise rates on BC driver's premiums until such time as the BC Government makes pledge not to plunder its profits that should be used in education and driver safety and to reduce claims costs from motor vehicle accidents. BC lawyers need to stopped from grooming claims and then taking disproportionate amounts of claim settlements from clients. If ICBC is operating its Crown Corporation is earnest it should be making complaints in this regard about high legal fees. By far the biggest step that ICBC should take is removing some of the claims that lawyers groom or where self litigants delude themselves through greed or ignorance into demanding in excess of what their claims are worth – from the legal process. Serious injury claims should receive serious compensation amounts while lesser injuries need to be resolved in short order.
Many self litigants with whiplash or soft tissue injuries not worthy of the superior courts should be allowed to take their claims to small claims without seeing a lawyer. Why would ICBC complain on one hand about high claims costs and then pay lawyers to bully self litigants in small claims when by filing his or her claim in the small claims the claimant is admitting the true nature of the claim.
The mix of fault of no fault compensation is nearly mirrored in BC drivers support for workers injuries to also be included in a similar mix and away from the strictly no fault regime. It is pretty ridiculous to think that Workers Compensation Boards who receive their monies from employers and whose salaries are paid by these employers are not on balance going to be partial to the hand that feeds them.
Seriously injured workers or the spouses or families of workers who have been killed in workplace injuries should have access to a lawyer and pain and suffering amounts. One wonders what the Law Society of BC and Trial Lawyers Association of B.C. are thinking when the only legal work available to them is based on the appeal of workers claims.
Although balanced budget legislation is not directly connected to the issue of claims costs, they are invited in by virtue of the fact that the BC Government is taking profit from the Corporation in order to meet this legislation demand. The fact that ICBC continues to realize a profit available to the BC Government General Revenue account is sufficient cause to reject the demand for a fee increase, because the existing structure easily pays fees cost and leaves a dividend over the Government's budget shortfalls.
1. The BC Government put legislation in place wherein no further dividends are taken from the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia at any time and that I..C.B.C. be declared a not for profit Crown Corporation.
2. That the BC Government move to develop in conjunction with ICBC a type of fault no fault insurance scheme permitted only those claims of more serious injury to the Superior Courts in the Province. That the BC Government also apply a fault no fault scheme to workers injured on the job.
3. That BC Lawyers through the Law Society of British Columbia develop regulations for contingency fee agreements more suitable and reasonable in terms of cost particularly as these fee agreement pertain to settlements made within 6 months of trial date. That BC Lawyers be prohibited from participating in ICBC personal injury claims made in small claims court.
4. In furtherance of 3, that the Government of British Columbia ensure a high number of Mediated or Arbitrated cases in Provincial Courts providing claimants to participate in 'shotgun' type of settlement – decision hearings where claimants are given 45 minutes to argue or negotiate settlements and where all decisions are final.
5. That provisions be put in place within the existing legislation to make clear the relationship between texting offences made by BC drivers and the legal relationship to this offence and to the validity of the insurance contract in light of such offences. The existing provision make it a ticketed offence. One recommendation might be that two tickets in one year equal a breach of the existing contract in terms of the safe driving discount (if one exists), and a declaration that the contract is in breach if on the second if an accident is involved.
An RSR ROBBINS survey of 832 licensed BC drivers who are also declared premium payers. This survey was conducted between August 31, 2015 and September 5, 2015. The estimated Margin of Error is 3.5%.

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