Tara Hartshorne stood at the corner of Ford and Nevin roads in Rosedale, hand touching a photo of her daughter Chloe Des Rochers at a memorial near the spot where Chloe was killed by the driver of a pickup truck on Aug. 1.
Tears in her eyes, Hartshorne talked with grief dripping from every word.
She quickly turned to outrage that city hall has done nothing to improve the intersection. Drivers sped by even while she was talking to The Progress at the site on Sept. 19, and even as the vigil for Chloe was underway in early August.
She said how hard it was to express the feeling in her chest about the death of her 19-year-old daughter who was on a skateboard, out trying to “clear her head” the night she died.
“I can’t even put into words how hard it is to just have the will to breathe when you lose a child,” Tara said.
“I never knew a heart could hurt so bad.”
Every morning, Hartshorne said she wakes up and for one moment, one split second, she thinks Chloe’s death was just a bad dream.
Then she realizes what happened.
Bureaucratic insult added to injury
Hartshorne is one of the relatively small number of people who have lost a loved one to a motor vehicle incident in B.C., be it an accident, negligence, or criminal behaviour.
What she has learned as others in that group have also learned, is that ICBC’s “no-fault” insurance program that came in May 1, 2021 is so callous and bottom-line oriented that even the Crown corporation’s staff are fraught with emotion talking about it.
“I had a very interesting conversation with two ICBC managers who were both in tears explaining that no one (even the ICBC employees) agrees with these changes but there is nothing they can do at a manager level anymore,” Hartshorne said.
“One of the ICBC managers was so upset he offered to come down from Kamloops to help explain the paperwork in person.”
Basically, a fatality, according to ICBC and the no-fault system, means the grieving parents of a dead child get next to nothing.
The “Enhanced Care” system entitles loved ones to up to $9,386 per deceased person, and each family member is entitled up to $3,925 for grief counselling. That’s about it. There are small payments available to dependents if the deceased person was working.
“How can my daughter’s life be worth only funeral costs and counselling?” she asks. “The damage to a family after a loss is not quantifiable. Until you have experienced it personally it is hard to describe in words to anyone. ICBC is banking on this fact that it affects so few people that no one will fight back.”
Vancouver lawyer Erik Magraken pulls no punches describing his take on it.
“The no-fault scheme is so unfair that the government was scared to tell the public what it is,” he told The Progress. “They had to mislead the public with a multi-million-dollar marketing campaign calling it ‘enhanced care.’ As victims of serious crashes are finding out one after the other there is nothing enhanced about it. ICBC’s so-called dumpster fire (which never existed as they sat on billions in assets) is now encased in gold and emeralds paid for by the rights of crash victims being stripped away.”
Magraken, who is an injury litigator and managing partner of MacIsaac & Company, says under ICBC’s “no-fault-no-rights” scheme, parents of a dead child like Hartshorne can almost never sue for pain and suffering.
“They basically have no rights. And at-fault drivers can almost never be sued in B.C. No fault means no accountability. It means bad drivers can pay less and harm more.”
The only way a lawsuit could be filed against the 20-something driver who killed Chloe, is if he is convicted of a criminal code driving offence such as impaired driving or dangerous driving causing death. A motor vehicle act offence doesn’t cut it.
Two months after her death, the young man hasn’t been charged, according to Court Services Online.
Has he reached out to apologize, given that Rosedale is a small community and everyone knows who he is? No.
“We have had no apologies and seen no changes to the intersection,” Hartshorne said. “Now we will receive no compensation and I still have to wake up every day for the next 45 years (or what’s left) of my life with the broken heart of a mother who will never see their baby ever again. There is no justice for Chloe here.”
Asked to comment in response to some of what Hartshorne said about ICBC’s policy, a statement attributed to ICBC offered “deepest condolences.”
“The death of a child is a tragedy no family should have to endure and our hearts go out to them. Under Enhanced Care, grief counselling and more substantial benefits are available to parents, spouses or dependents in the event of the loss of a family member than was previously available. In the event that criminal charges (including for impaired driving) are laid and a driver is convicted, victims have the right to sue that driver in a civil claim for certain compensation.”
No fault equals zero incentive to drive safely
“ICBC is banking on the fact that those claims cost so much but represented such a small population of claims that there isn’t enough people affected to fight it,” Hartshorne said. “It’s very sad.”
She feels like it’s a slap in the face after dealing with an already excruciating situation.
“It’s not that money will bring Chloe back but it would allow more time for us to be off work to heal. Instead, people will have to fully rely on the charity of friends via GoFundMe to memorialize their loved one.”
What further irks Hartshorne is that this system seems to have no incentive to drive safely.
“Why bother telling people not to drink and drive? Even if you drink and drive and even if you kill someone, don’t worry, you won’t have to pay. It’s fine because it’s ‘no fault.’ What the heck kind of message is that sending to people?”
Magraken says she isn’t wrong, but it’s worse.
“Here’s a sneaky catch,” he said. “The police have been told (via regulation that accompanied the no-fault roll out) that they need not even attend the vast majority of crashes. No police attending = no investigation = no charges = no conviction = no accountability.
“These stories are tragic. And they will keep coming.”
Magraken said the only way to make changes is for people to lobby their MLAs. Hartshorne said she contacted her MLA for Chilliwack-Kent, Kelli Paddon, but didn’t hear back.
Paddon told The Progress that her heart goes out to Chloe’s family, and that she has reached out but has not heard back.
In response to questions about “Enhanced Care,” Paddon said it was put in place to “protect” British Columbians after an accident.
“Prior to its implementation many people were paying for their care out of pocket and didn’t get them reimbursed until years of legal proceedings and lawsuits.
“Enhanced Care has significantly improved care, recovery and income replacement benefits to anyone injured in a crash.”
Paddon added that her office will assist Chloe’s family to get benefits “available under the new Enhanced Care Program.”
Meanwhile, a GoFundMe has been set up to help the family with expenses at this difficult time. It’s here Begin the healing journey for Chloe’s Family.
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