Editorial: One piece of ICBC puzzle in place

If the new ICBC rules work as intended, a fender bender will no longer be tantamount to a meal ticket for B.C. drivers and their passengers.

That’s good news for all of us who shell out a hefty chunk of cash every year for even the basic insurance required to operate a motor vehicle.

Beginning April 1, 2019, pain and suffering payouts will be capped at $5,500. Currently, minor injury claims average $30,000, meaning some people are raking in far more than that for soft tissue injuries.

Conversely, if someone is seriously hurt or killed they or their family will be able to claim more — the limit has been doubled from $150,000 to $300,000 — to help cover costs of care, recovery or funerals. That’s absolutely fair.

What might (but probably shouldn’t) come as a surprise is that only slightly more than half of the money won from ICBC actually goes to the claimant.

According to information shared by MoveUP, the union representing ICBC employees, research conducted by Ernest & Young based on 2015 numbers and released in 2017, shows that 57 per cent or $1.16 billion of the roughly $2 billion spent on injury claims goes to the injured party/claimant.

The remaining $840 million was spent on legal fees, litigation disbursements, medical reports and staff adjudication costs.

No wonder television ad space is filled up each night with high-pressure pitches from personal injury lawyers.

Capping payouts for less serious injuries is a good first step toward stanching the bleeding at ICBC. But what seems to be missing here — as part of the Crown corporation’s effort to address its projected $1.3 billion deficit — is any reference to harsher financial penalties for chronically dangerous or careless drivers.

High-risk demographics (sorry, males under 25) and people with consistently bad driving records are already being dinged with higher rates, but ideally, penalties for serious and repeat offenders should be high enough to force them off the roads entirely and onto mass transit.

Based on the sticker price of some of the vehicles that have been impounded in the Lower Mainland over the past several years, it’s tough to say what number it would take to accomplish that.

But if, for argument’s sake, that figure could be found, the absence of those drivers our streets and highways would no doubt lead to fewer crashes and, by extension, fewer payouts.

Driving, for the rest of us, would become both safer and more affordable.

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