The Trial Lawyers Association of B.C. is set to launch a constitutional challenge against the provincial government over new Insurance Corporation of B.C. (ICBC) rules.

The constitutional challenge is expected to be filed on Monday. The trial lawyers say they are attempting to protect the charter rights of British Columbians injured on the province’s roads.

“Access to justice is a basic human right guaranteed to us as Canadians under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” Trial Lawyers Association of B.C. president Ron Nairne said.
“The approach this government has taken to legislative and regulatory changes to address ICBC’s mismanagement problems violates the rights of British Columbians. This should be about protecting the public interest — not about protecting ICBC.”
A constitutional challenge means a law is being challenged in court to determine if it violates or is inconsistent with the Constitution of Canada, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The overhaul at ICBC comes into effect on Monday.

As a result of the change, there will be a limit of $5,500 on pain and suffering payouts for injuries that fall under the minor injury definition and a new independent dispute resolution process to help settle injury claims.

The changes are expected to save ICBC more than $1 billion — a welcome sign for a corporation that is forecast to lose more than that amount this year.

“These are massive changes. They are [the] largest change in the 45-year history of this company,” ICBC CEO Nicolas Jimenez said.

“This is a massive reorienting of the system. We are moving away from one oriented on litigation and [to one that] is really focused on care.”

At the core of the legal changes is the expansion of the Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT). The CRT will be used to resolve motor vehicle accident injury claim disputes valued at $50,000 or less.

“Improving access to justice is the heart of our work and what motivates us every day,” CRT chair Shannon Salter said.

“We are looking forward to taking on this expanded role and helping British Columbians resolve these disputes without the time, stress and expense of going to court.”

It will be up to the tribunal to determine whether an injury is “minor,” whether a person is entitled to accident benefits and who is responsible for a crash. Where parties involved in a crash can’t agree, the CRT can make binding decisions that are enforceable as court orders.

The reason the province has moved things to a tribunal is to deal with rising settlement costs that have been driven by legal bills. ICBC says there has been an uncontrolled gap growing between the premiums collected from customers and the cost of the claims paid out each year.

Members of the Trial Lawyer Association of B.C. are concerned that the regulations emerging from the ICBC changes will “unduly restrict access to the courts” and unfairly reduce compensation for those injured on the road.

The trial lawyers also sought out the opinion of former B.C. attorney general and premier Ujjal Dosanjh.

“I am deeply concerned with the impacts on my fellow British Columbians of the impending legislation introduced by our current government. Fixing ICBC is a priority, but not at the expense of access to justice and the charter rights of British Columbians,” Dosanjh said.

“I felt compelled to speak out as I do not believe this government has clearly understood or described the impacts of this legislation on the citizens of B.C., especially those least able to advocate for themselves after an injury resulting from a road accident.”

Two of Dosanjh’s sons work at the Dosanjh Law Group and advertise work on both motor vehicle accidents and soft tissue injuries. His son Aseem previously served as president of the Trial Lawyers Association of B.C.