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Shortening the Length of Trials and Reducing Costs

At a news conference on February 11, 2019 BC Attorney General David Eby announced the BC government has amended the BC Supreme Court rules for civil cases in which ICBC is a party by limiting the number of experts and their reports.

The Attorney General first provided the context for these changes by citing the following statistics: ICBC is on track for a year-end loss of $1.18 billion, which will compound last year’s $1.3-billion deficit; personal injury claims resulting from vehicle crashes have increased 43% in the past five years; and the use of experts has contributed to a 20% rise in the cost of injury settlements in the past year.

For claims under $100,000, the new rules will limit the use of experts to one; above that to a maximum of three. At its discretion the court will also be able to permit more court-appointed or joint experts. Effective February 11th, this change will also apply to cases filed before this date in which experts have not yet been appointed.

The Attorney General mentioned that he estimates these new rules will save ICBC $400 million annually. And he pointed out they align with the rules in other Canadian provinces and are less restrictive than the Australian and U.K. rules.

The Attorney General said, “It doesn’t advance any interest to have six-plus adversarial experts on a claim. It doesn’t advance any interest to have a $50,000 expense to resolve a $100,000 claim … The balance we have struck between unlimited adversarial experts under the current system and the no adversarial expert rules of other jurisdictions will reduce the costs and delays associated with using dueling experts while preserving a party’s ability to get evidence in front of a court. … We hope …this change … will encourage more use of more neutral, jointly approved, jointly appointed independent experts.”

The Globe and Mail newspaper report on these changes noted that part of Attorney General Eby’s stated rationale also cited its recently reported on investigation into the “lucrative, little-known growth industry that generates independent medical evaluations.”

Attorney General Eby said: “I believe ICBC and the plaintiffs are operating with a very broken system. There are excesses taking place on the ICBC side, there are excesses taking place on the plaintiffs’ side, in terms of experts that are brought forward… The Globe investigation showing ICBC’s tactics of recruiting experts to unfairly discredit injury claims was “an embarrassment for the corporation, and an illustration of why we are trying to move to reform this adversarial expert system.”

Advocacy Group, The Trial Lawyers Association of BC has responded by criticizing the government for “passing such consequential changes to our system of civil justice with no legislative debate.” Saying while it supports measures to make the civil justice system fairer, faster and cheaper, … “time and time again this government seems to favour ICBC’s financial interest over the legal rights of British Columbians and this rush to pass [such] restrictions … is the most recent illustration of asking car accident victims to pay for reckless driving.”

Attorney General Eby reportedly said he expects legal challenges.

Road Rules by Cedric Hughes