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Lawyers pouring money into advertising while ICBC in the red: attorney general
Skyrocketing ad spending by personal injury lawyers has prompted B.C.’s attorney general to raise concerns about how much of that money could ultimately be coming from the province's money-losing public auto insurer.
David Eby said ratepayers with the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia will ultimately be the ones footing the bill for a more than 50 per cent increase in advertising, when the public auto insurer is on track to lose some $1.3 billion this year.
“In the last year alone, I’ve seen information that advertising by lawyers is up 50 per cent,” Eby told reporters. “These are not sustainable trends…These are overhead costs that come ultimately from drivers who pay their insurance and we need to address these trends."
The province provided figures from Market Track, an American firm that monitors market conditions. The agency said advertising spending by personal injury law firms had risen by 56 per cent, from $1.51 million in 2016 to $2.36 million in 2017.
This week, the B.C. government introduced reforms capping minor injury claims at $5,500 and directing insurance disputes worth less than $50,000 away from the courtroom.
The changes would impact the way lawyers get paid for some claims work. An Ernst and Young report released last year found that one quarter of every dollar spent by ICBC went to legal costs. Other potential causes that have been raised are luxury cars, an increase in crashes caused by distracted driving and the increasing costs of car repair due to complicated technologies.
One group has bought ads in newspapers and television challenging the logic behind the NDP government’s ICBC fixes. That group, Rights Over Arbitrary Decisions, has argued that defining anything as a “minor injury” may mean some injuries don’t get adequate compensation.
“ICBC. Famous for their dumpster fire. Have they earned your trust?” says one video posted to the ROAD BC’s website.
The person listed as the registrant of the ROAD website is Shawn Mitchell, the CEO of the Trial Lawyers Association of B.C.
The group didn’t respond to a question from CTV News about their campaign.
Eby said the ICBC legislation introduced this week could get the agency “back into the black,” but that it would be a difficult road.
“We recognize there will be unhappiness among many lawyers who engage in personal injury practice. We’re not excited about this shift. It’s a necessary shift,” he said.
“ICBC is in a financial crisis, and we are making the changes necessary to provide affordable insurance to British Columbians and when British Columbians are in an accident, they are able to access the benefits to get them better and back to work and back to their normal lives."