(Finlayson Street at Douglas Street / ItkasanImages)

The BC government has announced measures that would reduce ICBC premiums by approximately 20% for the average driver in 2021.

In an announcement made on Thursday morning, the province stated that legislation in the coming weeks will overhaul ICBC by removing lawyers and legal costs from the system.

The auto-insurance provider is also switching to a no-fault system which means drivers involved in crashes can no longer sue each other for damages except in special cases involving court convictions like street racing, impaired driving, faulty manufacturing, etc.

Changes are also expected to give drivers in BC around $400 in savings per year, increase treatment benefits for crash victims to at least $7.5 million, and provide care for crash victims for as long as they need it, all without requiring anyone to hire a lawyer.

At the moment, the limit for care and recovery benefits is $300,000 and additional costs for long term care can only be obtained after a lengthy legal process.

The new increased $7.5 million benefits limit will also cover treatments like massage therapy, chiropractic care, and physiotherapy, prescriptions, dental care, and counselling, and assistance with personal care services if needed.

Additional proposals

On top of this, the NDP government is also proposing wage loss payments of $1,200/week (currently it is $740/week), additional personal care assistance up to $10,000 a month, and increased recreational benefits.

They also propose to provide self-employed individuals, full time students, and family caregivers access to new benefits that would cover income, time lost from studies, or increased expenses.

“You shouldn’t need a lawyer to access the benefits you’ve paid for. 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,” said Attorney General David Eby in a statement.

According to the Ministry of the Attorney General, this new system is expected to save ICBC approximately $1.5 billion in the first year, after changes take effect on May 1, 2021.

For now, as of April 2020, government has announced that there will be no changes to the basic premium rates this year.

Last week, BC appointed a Fairness Office that is more independent from ICBC to oversee the crown corporation’s customer service operations, in an effort to improve transparency and accountability.

According to the province, this office will be required to report out publicly, in plain language, on the type and number of issues it hears, along with recommendations to ICBC.

The insurance provider will then have to report on actions taken based on these recommendations.

While the Fairness Office will make recommendations to ICBC on how to resolve individual customer complaints – as well as policy and process, related to customer fairness – the Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT) will continue to resolve disputes for ICBC claims of $50,000 and under.

The CRT will also resolve disputes between customers and ICBC on decisions made by the insurance provider when it comes to certain matters involving minor injury determinations, accident benefit entitlement and fault determinations or claimed amounts $50,000 and under.