Near-billion-dollar lawsuit claims ICBC illegally paid victims’ accident benefits to province

Click to play video: 'Possible class-action lawsuit against ICBC  payments to MSP'
Possible class-action lawsuit against ICBC payments to MSP
WATCH: Possible class-action lawsuit against ICBC payments to MSP – Mar 4, 2020

B.C.’s public insurer and the provincial government are facing a potential class action lawsuit that could see nearly $1 billion returned to ratepayers and accident victims.

Vancouver lawyer Scott Stanley is leading the case, which argues that ICBC has been illegally reimbursing the province for medical fees that should already be covered under the Medical Services Plan (MSP).

“I feel ripped off for sure,” said Brayden Methot, a B.C. man who was rendered quadriplegic in a crash and is a plaintiff in the case.

“They shouldn’t be allowed to take advantage of people in my situation. I know that I’m not going to be the only one that they’ve taken advantage of — how many people are going to be in the same situation I’m in now?”

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The suit alleges that these transfers, which total tens of millions of dollars annually, ended up coming out of the pockets of accident victims and anyone who bought ICBC’s mandatory basic insurance.

“Say someone’s injured in a car accident and they go see their doctor. The law, which the government themselves made, makes it quite clear that those costs should be borne by MSP and not ICBC,” Stanley told CKNW.

Click to play video: 'New government legislation protects ICBC revenues'
New government legislation protects ICBC revenues

“And even though it’s quite clear, I say the government asked ICBC to reimburse them for those costs, and they did, which impacted accident victims, they had less money to recover and deal with their injuries. And then it increased the rates for rate payers.”

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The suit claims that Between 1988 and the present, ICBC has paid the province more than $899,724,536 in disbursements according to an agreement that has never been made public.

“The effect of this was to unlawfully withhold a portion of the accident benefits payable to [accident victims],” claims the suit.

“ICBC wrongfully represented to members of the accident victim class that they had reached the limit of their accident benefits when they had not.”

Click to play video: 'Legal fees drain B.C. crash victim’s settlement reward'
Legal fees drain B.C. crash victim’s settlement reward

ICBC’s maximum accident benefit payout was $150,000 until 2018, when it doubled to $300,000.

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Stanley said most people never need the full payout, but in severe cases like Methot’s, the situation is different.

“He, of course, needs every drop of that money,” said Stanley.

“The funds he needed, these weren’t luxuries. These were items he needed to keep himself alive. And he was denied his full complement of benefits because of this.”

The suit alleges the scheme also resulted in higher ICBC rates for every customer of the public insurer.

It argues that ICBC was forced to go to the B.C. Utilities Commission to seek rate increases to cover the hole in its budget created by the payments to the province, something it alleges amounts to an unconstitutional tax.

B.C. Attorney General David Eby said the province is still studying the suit.

“It’s not unusual for this to happen, the money is paid back to MSP by both private and public insurers. Government has plenty of agreements like this,” said Eby.

“I’m struggling to see the illegality of that, but not pre-judging the claim at all.”

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None of the claims have been proven in court.

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