Disbursements are legal expenses. Some examples of disbursements include the cost of ordering medical records, hiring a medical expert to provide an expert opinion, court filing fees, photocopies, faxes, etc. Most personal injury lawyers will pay for all disbursements on behalf of their clients until the end of the claim. Until recently, ICBC was responsible for paying for all disbursements that were proper and necessarily incurred if an injured claimant reached a settlement or won at trial.
The NDP passed a new law limiting the amount of disbursements that an injured claimant is permitted to claim from ICBC after settlement or after winning at trial. With this new law, ICBC is now only responsible for paying disbursements that total 6% of the value of the settlement or trial judgment no matter the total amount of the disbursement bill. As an example, if an injured claimant settles with ICBC for $100,000.00, then ICBC is only responsible for paying $6,000.00 towards the disbursement bill even if the disbursement bill is much higher than this amount.
The NDP have made this law retroactive. Currently, it currently applies to all claims even older ones where disbursements were paid for well before this new law came into place and at a time when they would have been fully reimbursed by ICBC.
The NDP have justified this change as a cost saving measure to make ICBC more profitable. In doing this, they are punishing injured claimants and making it more difficult for injured claimants to prove their claims. In order to have a successful ICBC claim, an injured claimant must provide evidence “proving” their injuries and other losses such as income loss and future care costs. The evidence must be from an expert for it to be considered by a trial judge. Medical expert evidence is provided through a “medical legal report” which is most often prepared after an injured claimant attends an independent medical examination by a medical expert (specialist). A medical legal report will set out the expert’s opinion on the type of injuries suffered, whether the injuries cause a disability and treatment recommendations. The vast majority of medical legal reports cost between $5,000.00 to $8,000.00. If an injured claimant has suffered multiple injuries such as soft tissue injuries, a fractured bone and depression, then it is necessary to hire different types of specialist doctors to provide an opinion within their different areas of specialty. The cost of these reports alone will well exceed 6% of the total settlement or judgment.
By passing this new law, the NDP have now created a terrible situation for injured claimants. In the majority of claims, the total disbursements needed to properly prove a claim will well exceed 6% of the total outcome. This results in an injured claimant having to pay for all disbursements not payable by ICBC.
This new law grossly favours ICBC. ICBC has endless resources to defend claims. There are no restrictions on ICBC relating to the amounts it can pay to defend claims. While ICBC has no limit on what it can spend, the limit on injured claimants is extreme. This new law will undoubtedly deter claimants from obtaining proper evidence to prove their claims because of the cost. While the value of the claim will be higher with proper evidence, any benefit will be wiped out by the increased cost which will be at the injured claimant’s own expense. This new law allows ICBC to make low offers to settle without consequence. While these low offers would normally force injured claimants to trial to obtain fair compensation, this new law discourages injured claimants from doing this because of the high cost of trial which they will be responsible for paying themselves. The NDP and ICBC both know this. This is why they have passed the law. Without proper evidence, the value of your ICBC claim is much lower. With proper evidence, the value of your claim will be much higher but this will be wiped out due to the cost.
The NDP profess to be the party for the “little guy”. Ironically and hypercritically, all of the changes the NDP have made to ICBC target injured claimants. If you were injured through no fault of your own, would you expect to be the target of ICBC? Do you think it is fair that injured claimants are targeted instead of the dangerous and negligent drivers? If ICBC has been in financial trouble for all of these years, why is the same management still in place? Why has ICBC not been made more efficient instead of eroding the rights of injured claimants to save ICBC money?
There is a petition that has been filed to overturn this new law. It is hopeful that a hearing will take place within the next few months. We will continue to keep you updated on the status of this very important issue.