[This post updated on April 15, 2020]
The Province of British Columbia has announced that it will be introducing legislation this spring (2020) to significantly change the automobile insurance regime in British Columbia.
These changes include moving to a “care-based” model of accident compensation. Under this model, people are compensated for their injuries according to amounts and categories set by regulations and policy. Except in limited circumstances, their entitlement to this compensation does not depend on whether they were responsible for the accident.
In most cases, a person will not be able to sue the person responsible for the accident for damages.
The CRT already has jurisdiction over accident benefit claims. Any disputes over these new and expanded benefits will also be within the CRT’s exclusive jurisdiction. This means that only the CRT, and not the court, can resolve these disputes.
With rare exceptions, all motor vehicle personal injury disputes involving accidents after May 1, 2021 will be resolved by the CRT, not the courts. The focus will be on a person’s injuries and their entitlement to benefits to help them recover from an accident, instead of who was responsible for the accident.
If these changes become law, they will only apply to accidents which occur on or after May 1, 2021. Accidents which occur between April 1, 2019 and May 1, 2021 will continue to fall under the existing automobile insurance regime, and the CRT’s current jurisdiction over motor vehicle personal injury claims will continue to apply.
If a person disagrees with a CRT decision, they can ask the court for judicial review.
How does auto insurance work now?
Under the current system, a party who is injured in a motor vehicle accident may receive benefits from their insurer to help them with their recovery. This may include things like benefits for income replacement, or for medical treatment such as physiotherapy or chiropractic care. These are known as “accident benefits”. A person’s entitlement to receive accident benefits does not depend on whether they were at fault for the accident.
The new care-based model will expand the amount and types of accident benefits that are currently available. However, under the current system, a person can also make a tort claim against the person, or people, they think caused the accident. They can ask for money, known as “damages”, to compensate them for things like pain and suffering, and income loss not covered by income replacement accident benefits.
A person’s entitlement to damages depends on whether they were responsible for the accident. If they were 100% responsible for the accident, they aren’t entitled to any damages. If they were 50% responsible for the accident, they only receive 50% of their entitlement to damages.
The CRT’s current jurisdiction over motor vehicle personal injury claims applies to accidents which occurred on or after April 1, 2019, and includes:
- Determination of entitlement to accident benefits.
- Determination of whether an injury is a “minor injury”. If an injury is a “minor injury”, damages for pain and suffering are capped at $5,500. This amount may change each year on April 1, depending on changes to the Consumer Price Index.
- Liability and damages claims up to $50,000.
The CRT also has jurisdiction over small claims disputes up to $5,000, strata property disputes, and disputes about societies and co-operative associations. Claims about motor vehicle accidents which happened before April 1, 2019, or accidents after April 1, 2019 where the applicant did not suffer a bodily injury, may fall under the CRT’s small claims jurisdiction, if the claim is under $5,000.
What is the ICBC fairness office?
On January 29, 2020 the Province of British Columbia announced that it intends to introduce legislation in fall 2020 to create a new fairness office at ICBC. ICBC already has a fairness commissioner. However, the fairness office will have greater authority and independence from ICBC. The new fairness office is expected to open in spring 2021.
The fairness office will review complaints related to customer fairness. It will make recommendations to ICBC to resolve individual complaints about fairness, as well as about broader issues around policies and processes. It will report publicly on the issues that it hears and the recommendations that it makes to ICBC. ICBC will also have to report publicly on actions it takes in response to these recommendations.
Unlike the fairness office, the Civil Resolution Tribunal is independent from ICBC. The creation of the fairness office does not impact the CRT’s jurisdiction as an independent quasi-judicial administrative tribunal to adjudicate claims relating to motor vehicle accidents. We will be able to provide more information about the differences between the CRT and the fairness office after the legislation is introduced in the fall.
Read the media release about the fairness office.
What is the CRT doing to prepare for the change to a care-based insurance model?
These changes will not take effect immediately. If the legislation is passed, the full care-based model will only apply to accidents which happen on May 1, 2021 or after.
This means that the CRT will have about a year to make necessary process and procedure changes, and to ensure that we have the required number of staff and tribunal members who are trained and well-prepared to handle these new disputes.
We’ll be working hard on this over the next year, and will provide regular updates on our progress.
If you have any questions about these changes to the CRT’s jurisdiction, please contact us.