If you thought the $1.15-billion deficit recorded in 2018-19 by the Insurance Corporation of B.C. was bad, you have another thing coming.
Even more cringe-worthy was another figure contained in the financial statements released Monday: The $1.9 billion paid out last year to 42 law firms that represented people who sued ICBC.
“One of four dollars that ICBC spends goes to legal administration and legal cost. The figures as a total may come as a surprise, though, when you look at 30% of what is paid to law firms, if that is what they are taking in contingency, you are looking at more than half a billion dollars in just lawyers’ fees alone,” Attorney General David Eby told reporters.
“Clearly there is room for improvement in terms of the efficiency in how disputes are resolved.”
That’s an understatement.
And it’s no surprise the Trial Lawyers Association of B.C., in a bid to protect the golden goose that delivers $500 million in fees each year, took the province to court on a couple of planned reforms aimed at cutting the cost of settling claims, such as limiting the number of expert reports that can be filed during a trial.
Those legal challenges are the kind of headwinds the NDP government is facing as it tries to put ICBC back on solid footing after the Liberals for years treated it like a piggy bank.
Of course, people have a right to be compensated if they’re injured in a crash. Of course they have a right to legal representation. But does it really have to be this way?
The province took a positive step forward by raising premiums for high-risk drivers and reducing them for low-risk drivers. That’s only fair. If you drive like a jerk, you should pay more.
Cracking that $1.15-billion deficit will require even more radical measures. And before you complain about them, just remember where a quarter of your premiums are going right now.
Joe Fries is city editor for the Penticton Herald.