A Vancouver man is speaking out about what he says are gaps in B.C.’s new “no-fault” insurance system, after he was struck by a car this spring.
Richard Costello was on his way to meet friends for a group bike ride on May 9, when he was hit by a car while crossing 2nd Avenue at Ontario Street.
Costello was on a bike route and had the green light in the intersection; the driver was found to be 100 per cent at fault.
“I would consider myself an experienced road cyclist. You have to anticipate what vehicles are doing, drivers are doing. When you see them at intersections you try and make eye contact, all these things,” he said.
“But something like this was unavoidable.”
Costello was taken to hospital by ambulance, where he was treated for fractured ribs and a fractured shoulder.
In the wake of the crash, he says he just felt lucky to be alive, but as his recovery — and his experience dealing with ICBC — dragged on, he says he began to feel abandoned.
Under ICBC’s new “enhanced care” system, which took effect May 1, medical bills and loss of income are covered, as are specialist treatments such as physiotherapy.
But Costello said he discovered some fine print with that last provision: coverage for physiotherapy and registered massage therapist treatment is capped at what ICBC has deemed to be “market rate.”
“This just doesn’t make sense. You are offered the physio and the massage to try and get yourself back up to this base level, and I think that rate is $82/session,” he said.
That’s less than Costello is paying, after he says he went to the specialist recommended to him at the hospital.
“It means you’re out of pocket every time.”
Costello also learned that while his recovery is covered by ICBC, he has no right to compensation for pain and suffering from the collision.
He’s facing months, if not a year of recovery time, during which he said he’s been forced to give up running and cycling.
“Exercise and activity is an important part of my life, and when you can’t do those things it can be difficult to manage,” he said.
“Layered on top of that you realize, OK, there is no compensation for my pain and suffering, and now my bike is not safe to ride. When I do get fit and back out on my bike I need to secure a new bike.”
Costello says his high-performance bike, a model that is no longer manufactured, is valued at about $15,000. Two bike shops have assessed it as no longer safe to ride, he said.
But he says ICBC’s claims adjusters have bogged him down in a lengthy process, and are fighting him over its fair market value.
“This has been worse than I’d ever imagined,” Joel Zanatta, a personal injury lawyer who focuses on cycling, told Global News.
“I’m constantly getting contacted by cyclists who are trying to deal with the insurance company, they’re getting the run around, they’re not getting their property loss paid, they’re out of pocket for medical treatments.”
Zanatta said the no-fault system has generated savings for ICBC, and by extension, for drivers — but it’s come at the expense of the most vulnerable road users.
He said Costello’s story of going out of pocket for physiotherapy and battling red tape to have his property replaced is a common one.
“And these are often people that have been grievously injured,” he said. “It’s not like a car accident where you might get a case of whiplash.”
ICBC says the standard session rate for physiotherapy was set in consultation with medical associations, and is in line with the market.
Crash victims, it said, are free to shop around to find a better rate.
The insurer also says it hasn’t said no to replacing Costello’s bike, and that the claims assessment is still ongoing.
Claimants are required to obtain three itemized quotes of the damage, along with a photo of the damage and the age of the damaged property, it said.
It’s not a satisfying answer for Costello, who said he’s been left to navigate the process while recovering from his injury.
“You just get the sense that you’re going to be in for a bit of a fight to get better again or to recover from this situation,” he said.
“It’s not made easy. Everything about the process is … almost like having another job trying to deal with this.”