The provincial government announced changes to court rules that will restrict the use of expert reports in ICBC legal cases.
Attorney General David Eby said Monday the proposed amendments aim to stop what the province describes as “the disproportionate use of experts and expert reports” that are now being used in motor-vehicle-related court cases.
“The issue of adversarial experts who take one side or another of a lawsuit has also been a problem facing jurisdictions across the common law world. In Australia and the United Kingdom they have tackled this issue very aggressively. Unfortunately the story is not true in B.C.,” Eby said.
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“Unlimited adversarial experts paid for by ICBC and covered by you and me through our taxes are just one more example of increased car insurance, are just one more example of spending on car insurance that doesn’t benefit any interests.”
The provincial government says vehicle injury claims have increased by 43 per cent in the past five years and the increased use of experts has contributed to a 20 per cent increase in ICBC’s litigated injury settlements over the last year.
Eby says the changes could save as much as $400 million per year.
ICBC has posted a loss of $860 million for the first nine months of the current fiscal year and is now projecting a year-end net loss of $1.18 billion, according to third-quarter results released Thursday.
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The deficit is $290 million worse than ICBC was forecasting in December. The public insurer lost $1.3 billion last fiscal year.
“There is no doubt this decision may have a significant impact on how lawyers approach their clients’ claims,” Eby said.
“We hope lawyers will take seriously our intention, successfully achieved elsewhere, that the joint experts rather than adversarial experts help the courts with impartiality.”
Experts and expert reports are used to address the issue of damages — such as wage loss, future wage loss and future care — that can be used by each side of a motor vehicle dispute. Under the new rules, parties will be able to use one expert and report for claims less than $100,000 and up to three experts and reports for all other claims.
The new rules will allow the judiciary to be able to permit additional court-appointed or joint experts at its discretion. These changes will come into effect immediately.
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The Trial Lawyers Association of B.C. (TLABC) described the move as an attack on the “most grievously injured British Columbians.”
“It is concerning to TLABC that the Attorney General, who is responsible for the administration of justice for all British Columbians, is forcing such severe restrictions on a victim’s right to prosecute her or his claim to the sole benefit of one party, ICBC,” reads a statement from TLABC.
“Of particular concern, TLABC understands that the Attorney General is forcing these changes unilaterally. He is doing so despite protest from the independent Rules Committee, which is comprised of justices of the Supreme Court of British Columbia and a number of senior lawyers from around the province from various areas of practice, including lawyers who do defense work for ICBC.”