Posts Tagged "lawyers"


B.C. lawyers promise to consider whether to challenge no-fault plans

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BURNABY October 24 2019. The ICBC Claim Centre at 4399 Wayburne, Burnaby, October 24 2019. Gerry Kahrmann / PNG staff photo) 00059159A [PNG Merlin Archive]

Gerry Kahrmann / PNG

Groups affected by the Insurance Corp. of B.C.’s move to a no-fault system say they’ll be scrutinizing the change closely following the government’s surprise announcement.

John Rice, president of the Trial Lawyers Association of B.C., said he was “deeply disappointed” by the move. The association will be investigating whether the proposed reforms should be challenged in court.

“You’ll remember that just in the spring of last year this government introduced sweeping legislative changes that contemplated the concept of a cap on what the government promised would only be minor injuries,” he said.

“But in fact, that cap included brain injuries, depression, PTSD, chronic pain … really serious stuff. And only nine months into this new law, government is effectively announcing that the policy scheme that they have pursued for the last two years has failed.”

Rice said the government changed the policy out of the public eye, so the legal community was in the dark when it made its announcement Thursday. His association is now looking closely at the proposed reforms and considering its next steps.

“If the government and the attorney general of British Columbia have passed a law that in the view of constitutional law experts is unconstitutional, then it’s the mandate of the Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia — its mission — to protect the rights of British Columbians against anyone, including our own government,” Rice said.

However, several provinces already have no-fault insurance.

Rice said successive failures by government have meant that it has taken the once-profitable “crown jewel of public auto insurance in North America” and put it in crisis.

“Their solution is to create a much bigger fire in a much bigger ICBC dumpster,” he said.

Justina Loh, executive director of Disability Alliance B.C., said her organization is hopeful about the reforms and will be consulting with ICBC to make sure its regulations and policies don’t prevent people from getting the benefits they need.

Loh said the alliance wants to see a streamlined, efficient system so that support is not delayed.

“At the end of the day, we just care about the well-being of everyone, people who’ve suffered any type of injury for motor vehicle accidents, if they’re pedestrians, cyclists, anything like that,” she said.

“We just want to make sure they’re able to get all the support that they need, so not just physical support for OT (occupational therapy) or PT (physical therapy), but if they need support for housing, for transportation. There’s so many expenses that you can incur from either a catastrophic accident or some type of motor vehicle accident.”

Aaron Sutherland, vice-president for the Insurance Bureau of Canada’s Pacific region, said that just because a province chooses a no-fault system, it doesn’t mean drivers shouldn’t have a choice in who insures them.

“Whether it’s a tort system like today or a no-fault system that government has announced, the big thing to make sure that rates are affordable as they can be is to make sure drivers have a choice,” he said.

Sutherland pointed to Quebec’s hybrid coverage method, where a mandatory public insurance plan covers bodily injury, and in some cases physical damage, such as hit-and-run, while all other coverage, including property damage, is purchased from private insurers.

The average insurance premium there is just $717, he said.

“We currently pay more for auto insurance than anyone else in the country and while it’s great to hear projections that rates are going to be coming down, I think we have to wait to see what ultimately happens,” Sutherland said.

“I think just last year government introduced a whole bunch of other reforms that were supposed to improve rates. And, of course, that didn’t happen.”

With files from Rob Shaw




Government defends ICBC cap in response to lawsuit filed by trial lawyers

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Damaged vehicles are seen at ICBC’s Lower Mainland Salvage Yard.


The B.C. government is defending its decision to impose a cap on ICBC claims for minor injuries, in a response to a lawsuit filed by the Trial Lawyers Association of B.C.

In April, the association sued in B.C. Supreme Court, saying the $5,500 cap on minor injury claims and the establishment of a civil resolution tribunal to adjudicate certain claims were unconstitutional and should be struck down.

The NDP government had passed the legislation enacting the changes last year after declaring that ICBC, which has reported losses of $2.2 billion in the past two years, was in a financial crisis and measures were needed to protect the interests of B.C. drivers and keep premiums down.

The association’s lawsuit argues that the new regulations have the potential to discriminate against people with brain injuries, psychiatric injuries and chronic pain by treating those injuries differently than other injuries.

It said that the scheme would have a “disproportionately adverse effect” upon women, the elderly and persons with pre-existing injuries or other disabilities.

The establishment of the tribunal would create “significant barriers” to access to justice before the superior courts for many claimants, said the suit.

But a response filed in court by the Attorney General’s Ministry emphasized that the substantial increases in ICBC claims costs had jeopardized the Crown corporation’s long-term sustainability and its ability to keep basic insurance rates affordable for drivers.

The ministry denied that the cap disproportionately adversely affects women, the elderly or persons with pre-existing conditions. “The defendants further deny that the minor injury definition includes conditions that have been subject to prejudice and stereotyping, historically or at all.”

Any distinction that the cap may draw among accident claimants is based on severity of injury, not mental or physical disability, says the ministry’s response.

The response defended the establishment of the tribunal, saying that its mandate was to resolve claims within its jurisdiction in a manner that is “accessible, speedy, economical, informal and flexible.”

The tribunal does not create a barrier to access to justice in the superior courts, the ministry said.

“There is no constitutional or fundamental right to have vehicle accident claims determined by a superior court,” it said. “Historically and at Confederation, the superior courts exercised concurrent jurisdiction with inferior courts and tribunals for personal injury claims.

“The minor injury amendments do not impair the core jurisdiction of the superior courts, nor do they otherwise cause undue hardship thereby impeding access to justice for accident claimants to whom they apply.”

No date has been set for a trial.



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Rita Sidhu: Lawyers not to blame for ICBC’s ‘dumpster fire’

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Attorney General David Eby looks on as Jane Dyson, executive director of Disability Alliance BC, speaks about the changes coming to the Insurance Corporation of B.C. during a press conference in the press gallery at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Tuesday February 6, 2018.


Recently, David Eby, the Attorney General of B.C., took a shot at B.C. personal injury lawyers.

His letter is full of misleading information designed to induce the public to blame lawyers for ICBC’s woes and to garner public support for the “minor-injury” cap. It’s simple enough to do as we all know lawyers are easy targets (although politicians are not far behind). No one likes lawyers — until they need one, that is.

For example, Eby took a shot at lawyer advertisements, specifically Preszler Law, as the top advertising firm in B.C. In fact, Preszler Law is an Ontario firm that very recently set up shop in B.C. The reality is that I, and many of my colleagues, don’t advertise at all. It is a tiny percentage of the personal injury bar that comprises this advertising.

Second, he states that the ICBC system has been “uniquely generous” to lawyers. Really? Because I live in a basement suite in Vancouver and can’t imagine affording to buy a home in the city I’ve lived in the majority of my life.

Eby speaks of how his own father’s law practice was almost put out of business and how his mother had to return to work earlier than planned. Unlike the Eby family, I don’t have a spouse to lean on.

My clients come to me because they are not being treated fairly by ICBC. Eby states that almost every accident claim dispute in B.C. goes to B.C. Supreme Court. In reality, almost every accident claim in B.C. is resolved without a trial. The only reason that claims are started in B.C. Supreme Court is because there is a two-year limitation date in which one must file or lose their claim. If ICBC treated people fairly in the first two years, people wouldn’t need lawyers to seek justice for them in the courts. Eby certainly has a way of spinning “alternative facts.”

Eby blames lawyers like myself for spending thousands of dollars on expert reports. In fact, I can give many examples of where I have not got any reports, but ICBC has scheduled multiple examinations of my client, leaving me in the position of having no choice but to get my own reports.

Eby stated, “Nobody knows better than these lawyers do about what is happening.”

Yes, we do know what is happening. We see you. In spite of the dire financial situation at ICBC, there have been no structural or leadership changes at the Crown corporation. ICBC is a so-called “dumpster fire” but the executives receive hefty bonuses.

Rather than cutting the pay/vacations of union ICBC staff or stopping ICBC executive bonuses or cutting the $400 million a year commissions paid to ICBC salespeople, the NDP are taking it out of innocent victims’ injury compensation and blaming lawyers for ICBC’s woes.

The government argued early on that introducing minor-injury caps was the only option available to them to avoid passing on significant rate hikes to British Columbians — and yet here we are with significant rate hikes on the horizon.

There is no doubt that innocent accident victims are the ones who will pay the price for bad drivers in light of the changes to ICBC. I understand that people don’t think it will happen to them, but if and when they are injured through the negligence of a bad driver, and they are unfairly treated by ICBC, as countless numbers of my clients are, they will see the truth of who the real villain is, and … spoiler alert! … it’s not the lawyers.

Rita Sidhu is a Vancouver lawyer specializing in criminal, family and personal injury law.

Letters to the editor should be sent to sunletters@vancouversun.com. The editorial pages editor is Gordon Clark, who can be reached at gclark@postmedia.com.

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Ron Nairne: David Eby’s Trump-like attacks on lawyers, plans for ICBC, not fair to crash victims

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Attorney General David Eby speaks about changes coming to ICBC during a press conference in the press gallery at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Tuesday February 6, 2018.


Last month, Attorney General David Eby stated that a key driver in increasing ICBC costs is “plaintiff lawyers strategically building the value of the claim,” suggesting there is something untoward in lawyers doing their jobs. His statement implies that claims being advanced are somehow not genuine.

Eby’s swipe at the legal community is disappointing and misplaced. As a lawyer and the attorney general responsible for the administration of justice in British Columbia, Eby knows better. By taking a shot at the representation lawyers are sworn to provide their clients, Eby suggests that through the legal process injured British Columbians get compensation they don’t deserve. The effect is a loss of respect for the legal process.

Eby may be better-spoken than U.S. President Donald Trump, but the attack on the rule of law is no less alarming than Trump’s frequent jabs at the American legal system.

Insurance Corp. of B.C. claims take time to resolve because injuries sometimes take time to resolve as well. While most people will recover from injuries from a motor-vehicle accident in a few months, others develop permanent symptoms. It is often not possible to know at the time of the crash what injuries will heal and what will lead to a lifetime of disability.

Eby’s comments only serve to distract, not contribute, to an understanding of what has really happened at ICBC. As Eby knows, ICBC’s financial position is a product of mismanagement, rising crash rates and past governments treating the public insurance company as the government’s piggy bank.

No one wants to have to hire a lawyer. Our clients only want a fair settlement and to be done with the insurance-claim process as quickly as possible. If ICBC consistently made fair offers early in the process, most claims would settle and huge costs would be avoided. Instead, ICBC denies that claimants were injured, denies that they need treatment, and denies that their lives have been turned upside down by crashes caused by careless drivers.

Rather than deal fairly with injured individuals up front, claims get sent to ICBC defence counsel who (quite properly) strategically build the defence to the claim. This leads to more injured individuals needing counsel and helps drive up costs.

Last year, ICBC’s losses were revised from about $300 million to $1.3 billion over the course of a few months. The massive restatement of ICBC’s financial position demonstrates that ICBC management was asleep at the wheel — financial distracted driving at its worst.

Where was the accountability? No one at ICBC resigned or was fired. Instead, Eby rewarded ICBC by allowing the Crown corporation to design a system that “caps” compensation for British Columbians injured by careless drivers.

Eby needs to turn his attention to where it belongs by reducing the carnage on our roads caused by careless drivers, reducing distracted driving and by making those who injure others to pay for the harms and losses that they have caused.

Those who make a mess must be responsible for cleaning it up. Under the system now being championed by Eby, injured British Columbians will be left holding the broom.

Ron Nairne is the incoming president of the Trial Lawyers Association of B.C.

Letters to the editor should be sent to sunletters@vancouversun.com. The editorial pages editor is Gordon Clark, who can be reached at gclark@postmedia.com.

CLICK HERE to report a typo.

Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email vantips@postmedia.com.

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