Warning: This story contains disturbing details that may upset and trigger some readers. Discretion is advised.
It’s a moment seared painfully into Cemil’s brain. He and his children had just finished playing tennis and were were waiting to cross the road at Cornwall Avenue and Arbutus Street on July 20.
All of a sudden, he said he heard the crunch of two cars colliding in the intersection. He and his five-year-old daughter had no time to move out of the way.
“The car came, hit my daughter and the pole at the same time … She had a massive wound on her leg — open — flesh, flat, broken bones, everything. I just grabbed her and started screaming her name.”
Cemil said he checked to make sure his two boys were alive. Everyone was physically uninjured, apart from his daughter, whose face was covered in blood.
“She’s calling me, ‘Baba! Baba, hug me! Baba stay with me!” he said. “That’s all she was saying. I was hugging her and at the same time, trying to assess her wounds. Is she going to be alive?”
According to Vancouver police, the collision caused the vehicles to mount the curb and land on the sidewalk. It appears one was making a left turn at the time, they said on the day of the accident.
Cemil has asked to be identified by first name only in order to protect his daughter. In addition to her severe leg wounds, he said his daughter suffered fractured arms and lost a finger tip.
One surgery later, she been discharged from the hospital in casts and pins. The hope is that because she’s young, she will fully recover.
“When you have this many injuries, there is room for many mistakes,” he said.
Despite the horrific nature of the accident and his daughter’s injuries, Cemil said his family has spent countless hours trying to wade through ICBC’s recovery process. His workload has “quadrupled,” he told Global News, and his house “is in a state of emergency.”
“We are not getting any help from anybody. We are alone in this,” he said. “I’m not even assigned a psychologist yet. Nothing is moving … we are just being ignored and neglected.”
According to Greg Phillips, second-vice president of the Trial Lawyers Association of BC, British Columbians used to be able to hire someone to advocate for them after an accident and help navigate ICBC’s system. Under the new no-fault system, however, they “simply don’t have that right anymore,” he told Global News.
“We were told that this system was going to be quicker, cheaper and easier, and stories like this really help illustrate that it’s been anything but,” Phillips explained.
“The new no-fault model has generated something like 200 or 300 pages of new legislation, which makes it frankly, virtually impossible for someone who’s recovering to understand their rights and how to access the supports they need.”
ICBC’s Enhanced Care model was introduced last year, billed in part as offering British Columbians “significantly improved care, recovery and income replacement,” regardless of one’s fault in an accident. The provincial government has said that under the new system, the totality of benefits far exceed what residents had access to under the old model, which was based on litigation.
According to ICBC, a claimant would previously have likely needed to wait “many years” before receiving any money through litigation, and would have to pay up to a third of their settlement to a lawyer.
Phillips, however, has criticized the policy for removing a victim’s right to hire a lawyer and sue for pain and suffering caused by an accident.
“It used to be that you could claim for all of the expenses or losses associated with this. Now we essentially have a very complicated box that everyone is piled into,” he said. “Even if there’s an at-fault driver here, they have access to the same box as this poor little girl and her family members.”
Cemil, meanwhile, said his children don’t feel safe at home — within visual range of the accident location. When they see the corner, he said they start screaming, believing a car could hit them.
He’s been sent countless pages of PDFs to read and forms to fill out and said there is “nothing in it” for him.
“They made this PDF for only one person in B.C., it’s not for a family of five who has suffered from a massive accident on the side of the road,” he said. “This is my reality and we’re alone in this … All my daughter’s screams, all my trauma, all my son’s trauma, has no value on compensation.”
In a written statement, ICBC said their “hearts go out” to Cemil’s family, and they are “doing everything we can to help during this incredibly difficult time.”
“ICBC will endeavour to ensure they receive every benefit they are entitled to,” wrote spokesperson Brent Shearer.
“Care is being led by a team of health care professionals, including ongoing work with an occupational therapist to address any immediate needs and develop a comprehensive recovery plan.”
The benefits, Shearar added, will be available for as long as they are needed with no overall limit to care and recovery.
Under the new Enhanced Care system, he said, if a crash is caused by a driver who is convicted of certain Criminal Code offences, a victim can still sue that driver in a civil claim for certain compensation.