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Payout figure in ICBC financial statement is spin, lawyers' association says
VICTORIA - The battle between the Trial Lawyers Association of B.C. and ICBC is now playing out in an unusual place: detailed financial statements.
The public insurer has posted Statements and Schedules of Financial Information for the fiscal year that ended on March 31, 2019, and for the first time it features something new – a list of payments to personal injury law firms. In the year ICBC lost $1.1 billion, or about $2.8 million a day, the document shows $1.9 billion was paid to plaintiff law firms.
Ron Nairne of the Trial Lawyers Association argued the disclosure was spin because most of the money goes to those injured in car crashes, and not to lawyers. The association has challenged several of the changes being made to ICBC under the NDP government, saying they penalize those hurt in crashes.
Attorney General David Eby, who is also responsible for ICBC, has blamed legal costs, in part, for the so-called dumpster fire at the corporation.
“The figures as a total may come as a surprise though when you look at 30 per cent of the amount paid to law firms. If that's what they're taking in contingency fees, you're looking at half a billion dollars,” Eby added.
He said one out of every $4 spent by ICBC is on legal costs.
The Trial Lawyers said it's mismanagement of claims by the corporation that leads to higher legal costs. They argued some cases go to trial when they could have been settled, and if ICBC loses, it’s usually on the hook for higher settlement costs.
“ICBC is slow to come to the table," said Nairne. “A lot of the time they stretch things out and as a result these costs that ICBC are now complaining about so loudly are actually because they haven’t been coming forward quickly to try and resolve these claims in a timely manner.”
Days ago the Trial Lawyers successfully challenged a new rule that limits expert testimony in court cases. For ICBC, Eby estimated the one-time cost at $400 million.