The B.C. government will change court rules to limit the use of “adversarial experts” in personal injury claims in automobile accidents.
The move is being prompted by soaring legal costs that have contributed to a ballooning and systemic deficit at the Crown auto insurance company.
Last year, the B.C. government wrote off ICBC’s $1.3 billion deficit. As of the third quarter, ICBC’s deficit was $860 million, and is now on track for a $1.1 billion deficit for 2018-2019.
Attorney General David Eby said soaring costs of fighting personal injury claims are partly to blame. Vehicle injury claims have increased by 43% in the past five years.
In some cases, up to six experts will be called in by lawyers fighting ICBC in court on behalf of their clients, which drives up the cost of litigation.
Eby estimates that the use of experts has contributed to a 20% increase in ICBC's litigated injury settlements over the last year. Eby is therefore changing court rules to limit the use of “adversarial experts.”
The new rules will limit the use of experts to one for claims under $100,000, and a maximum of three for claims above that.
“The only other additional experts allowed will be joint or court-appointed experts,” Eby said.
Eby estimates the cap on experts will save ICBC $400 million annually.
The change goes into effect today, February 11. It will apply to those cases filed before February 11, where experts have not yet been appointed.
“We hope that this change in limiting adversarial experts will encourage more use of more neutral, jointly approved, jointly appointed independent experts,” Eby said.
Eby said the new caps on experts brings B.C. in line with other provinces and countries.
The corporation's $860-million loss for the first nine months of the year is $273 million higher than expected. ICBC is currently on track to record a $1.18 billion loss for 2018-19, compounding the blow of last year's $1.3-billion deficit.