B.C.’s public insurer and the provincial government are now facing a class-action lawsuit that could see money returned to 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).
The plaintiffs, Robert Rorison and Brayden Methot, allege that these transfers ended up coming out of the pockets of accident victims who needed their full benefits to aid in their recoveries.
“They say those payments have wrongfully increased insurance costs for all buyers of compulsory vehicle insurance (the “Ratepayer Class”) while reducing the amount of other medical and rehabilitation benefits available to people who have suffered catastrophic injuries in motor vehicle accidents (the “Accident Victim Class”),” the lawsuit states.
However, the courts threw out the much larger part of the class action application, the ratepayer class.
Lawyers argued that since the 1990s ICBC paid nearly a billion dollars to medical practitioners that should have come from MSP.
In May 2021, when ICBC switched to a “no-fault” insurance system, it prevented legal actions for injuries suffered in motor vehicle accidents.
“This proceeding was commenced and relates to claims that arose before that change came into force,” the lawsuit states. “In these reasons, references to governing legislation, other than the Amendment Act, are to legislation as it existed prior to that change.”
Stanley said it is unclear what will happen with the larger part of the class action application.
“Given that the government sought to significantly intrude on the court’s ability to adjudicate something without interference, I think it’s only fair that the court system has a thorough review of all the actions undertaken by the NDP government,” he said.
However, a B.C. Supreme Court decision says hundreds of people can now move forward with litigation in the accident victim class.
Methot was in an accident near Kamloops in 2014 that left him partially paralyzed. The lawsuit states he is still owed $3,700.
“If you’re poor and you’re unable to work and you can’t afford to buy health care then it’s a tremendous amount of money,” Stanley said, adding that everyone in the accident victim class is among the most economically and socially vulnerable members of society.
According to court filings by ICBC, there are 275 people this class action could affect. Their benefits were clawed back despite an internal policy that clearly stated they were entitled to the full amount.
The insurer claimed in court most of those people have been offered compensation for the missing funds but lawyers say the number of victims is much higher than ICBC claims.
“To be clear, ICBC was taking money from everybody’s account,” Stanley said. “It’s only if you needed all of it that you would notice it.”
B.C.’s Attorney General, David Eby, said the government did not do anything wrong.
“Our government has been committed to drive down the cost of car insurance for British Columbians, and part of that is responding to a culture of endless litigation, of using people who buy car insurance as an endless bank account, to fund lawsuits that go on for years,” Eby said.
The class action will look at what compensation is owed to each plaintiff and whether ICBC owes further damages.