The B.C. government will attempt another legislative change in an effort to reduce the number of expert witnesses in vehicle injury cases involving ICBC, Attorney General David Eby says.
Eby said Wednesday he has decided not to appeal an October ruling that struck down caps on “adversarial” experts testifying in injury cases. He had estimated that the change could save as much as $400 million as the provincial auto insurer grapples with high court costs and two consecutive years of losing more than $1 billion.
Amendments to the Evidence Act are being prepared for next spring’s session of the B.C. legislature, in another effort to reduce court costs from vehicle accidents, as Australia and the United Kingdom have done, Eby said. He expects that change to be challenged as well, likely by the Trial Lawyers Association of B.C. that has challenged a series of reforms to ICBC to limit court costs.
Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson of the B.C. Supreme Court ruled Oct. 23 that restrictions on expert witnesses “infringes on the court’s jurisdiction to control its process.”
ICBC posted a $50 million surplus in the first quarter of the fiscal year that began April 1, but Eby said Wednesday that has been eroded as more major injury cases emerge from the injury claims that were accumulated before changes to injury rules took effect in April. Those cases represent “a $12 billion book of liabilities,” Eby said.
ICBC court cases show some individuals have had “tens of thousands” of their settlements spent on expert reports, with the Crown corporation forced to make similar expenditures, he said.
“Our goal is to ensure that more of the settlement amount that people are entitled to goes into their pockets,” Eby said. “Our goal is to reduce the adversarial nature of the use of experts that drives much of this problem. Our goal is to reduce the expenditure for all people who have to go to court for personal injuries, a goal that will have benefits for ICBC as well, and by extension for ratepayers, who hopefully will not have to pay for as many experts on both sides in order to resolve disputes.”
The rejected changes would have limited expert witnesses and reports to court to one for “fast-tracked” cases involving claims under $100,000, and up to three for other cases.