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Rita Sidhu: Lawyers not to blame for ICBC’s ‘dumpster fire’


Attorney General David Eby looks on as Jane Dyson, executive director of Disability Alliance BC, speaks about the changes coming to the Insurance Corporation of B.C. during a press conference in the press gallery at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Tuesday February 6, 2018.


CHAD HIPOLITO / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Recently, David Eby, the Attorney General of B.C., took a shot at B.C. personal injury lawyers.

His letter is full of misleading information designed to induce the public to blame lawyers for ICBC’s woes and to garner public support for the “minor-injury” cap. It’s simple enough to do as we all know lawyers are easy targets (although politicians are not far behind). No one likes lawyers — until they need one, that is.

For example, Eby took a shot at lawyer advertisements, specifically Preszler Law, as the top advertising firm in B.C. In fact, Preszler Law is an Ontario firm that very recently set up shop in B.C. The reality is that I, and many of my colleagues, don’t advertise at all. It is a tiny percentage of the personal injury bar that comprises this advertising.

Second, he states that the ICBC system has been “uniquely generous” to lawyers. Really? Because I live in a basement suite in Vancouver and can’t imagine affording to buy a home in the city I’ve lived in the majority of my life.

Eby speaks of how his own father’s law practice was almost put out of business and how his mother had to return to work earlier than planned. Unlike the Eby family, I don’t have a spouse to lean on.

My clients come to me because they are not being treated fairly by ICBC. Eby states that almost every accident claim dispute in B.C. goes to B.C. Supreme Court. In reality, almost every accident claim in B.C. is resolved without a trial. The only reason that claims are started in B.C. Supreme Court is because there is a two-year limitation date in which one must file or lose their claim. If ICBC treated people fairly in the first two years, people wouldn’t need lawyers to seek justice for them in the courts. Eby certainly has a way of spinning “alternative facts.”

Eby blames lawyers like myself for spending thousands of dollars on expert reports. In fact, I can give many examples of where I have not got any reports, but ICBC has scheduled multiple examinations of my client, leaving me in the position of having no choice but to get my own reports.

Eby stated, “Nobody knows better than these lawyers do about what is happening.”

Yes, we do know what is happening. We see you. In spite of the dire financial situation at ICBC, there have been no structural or leadership changes at the Crown corporation. ICBC is a so-called “dumpster fire” but the executives receive hefty bonuses.

Rather than cutting the pay/vacations of union ICBC staff or stopping ICBC executive bonuses or cutting the $400 million a year commissions paid to ICBC salespeople, the NDP are taking it out of innocent victims’ injury compensation and blaming lawyers for ICBC’s woes.

The government argued early on that introducing minor-injury caps was the only option available to them to avoid passing on significant rate hikes to British Columbians — and yet here we are with significant rate hikes on the horizon.

There is no doubt that innocent accident victims are the ones who will pay the price for bad drivers in light of the changes to ICBC. I understand that people don’t think it will happen to them, but if and when they are injured through the negligence of a bad driver, and they are unfairly treated by ICBC, as countless numbers of my clients are, they will see the truth of who the real villain is, and … spoiler alert! … it’s not the lawyers.

Rita Sidhu is a Vancouver lawyer specializing in criminal, family and personal injury law.


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