Tragic car accident case highlights 'gaps' in ICBC's no-fault policy, lawyer says

A deadly 2021 crash in Surrey is shining new light on a little-known aspect of ICBC no-fault insurance. One that lawyers say can limit liability for those who serve alcohol and undermine efforts to get drunk drivers off the road. Catherine Urquhart reports.

A lawyer representing the family of a teen who was killed in a tragic car accident in Surrey, B.C. last year says the family’s case highlights reduced “accountability” in ICBC’s new system.

Caleb Reimer, Ronin Sharma and Parker Magnuson were between the ages of 16 and 17 when their car slammed into a tree near 104 Avenue and 160 Street around 2:45 a.m. on Aug. 21, 2021. The trio were up-and-coming hockey players.

Speed and alcohol were factors in the collision, Surrey RCMP determined.

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Under the province’s new, no-fault insurance system, those who allegedly served the teens alcohol face diminished consequences, said Robyn Wishart, who represents Reimer’s family.

“The primary goal for the family is accountability, and protecting other families from going through a loss like they’ve suffered,” Wishart explained.

“(No-fault insurance) is a huge backwards step in the campaign against drinking and driving at the source where people consume alcohol, where money is made. The new legislation protects commercial hosts for bearing the full responsibility of overserving.”

Pain and suffering damages are capped at $400,000, and hosts no longer automatically face claims for financial damages. The no-fault legislation can be repealed as quickly as it was brought in to “stop these types of gaps,” Wishart added.

“It needs to be considered what the long-term effect is of reducing people’s rights to bring claims and their ability to be able to hold people accountable.”

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Global News reached out to Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth for comment on this story, but he deferred to ICBC.

In a written statement, the provincial Crown corporation said that if a commercial host contributed to an injury, “the customer will be able to claim against the commercial host for pain and suffering, along with punitive and exemplary damages.” Additionally, it said, anyone hurt in a crash and unable to work is eligible for up to 90 per cent of their net income up to $105,000 in gross income under Enhanced Care, and those who earn more can purchase additional coverage to top up the amount.

“This means that an injured customer has all of their financial losses and expenses covered by Enhanced Care, and still has the ability to seek further damages from the commercial host for their degree of fault, which maintains consequences for irresponsible commercial hosts,” ICBC wrote.

Under the previous system, the insurer said the maximum wage loss benefit was $740 per week, and benefits available to customers were “restricted compared to what is available under Enhanced Care.”

“It would often take many years for a customer to actually see a monetary award, and whatever amount they received would be reduced by one-third for lawyer fees,” it said.

“Compared to the previous insurance system, the Enhanced Care model does a better job of protecting customers while maintaining consequences on commercial hosts.”

Read more:

Speed a factor in Surrey crash that killed three teens: RCMP

In written comments, Bill Dick of Murphy Battista LLP in Vernon and president of the Trial Lawyers Association of B.C., described ICBC’s response as “somewhat disingenuous.”

“Icbc is comparing its new system ONLY to the old no fault benefits – and the new benefits are better ,” he wrote.

“However, they are ignoring the fact that you cannot sue the commercial host for all of your wage loss past and future and can no longer have your care needs independently assessed by the court.”

“Most importantly from a legal perspective,” Dick added, under the new no-fault policy, commercial hosts are now solely responsible for their degree of fault, and most often, the drunk driver is found to be primarily at fault.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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