By Rod McLennan

Any accident that occurs on or after April 1, 2019 will be subject to the “minor injury cap” amendment to the Insurance Vehicle Act, RSBC 1996, c. 231. Under the new cap, compensation for person with “minor injuries” is limited to $5,500. Although many have raised concerns over the minor injury cap and how it will be applied, we are not necessarily in uncharted territory. British Columbia is the last province in Canada to adopt compensation limits and restrictions to personal injury tort claims. Alberta, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and P.E.I. all limit damages for “minor injuries”. One significant difference is that British Columbia’s definition of “minor injury” includes injuries such as chronic pain syndrome and psychological conditions. That difference is what many have been crying out against since April 23, 2018, when the Attorney General, David Eby, described what would be included in the definition. Certain parties have been in an uproar over the definition because they believe it will drastically impact an insured’s access to compensation. However, the panic is likely overblown given that any “serious impairment”, which is an impairment lasting more than twelve months, is not subject to the $5,500 cap.

The cap is a significant development and there will be a period of uncertainty as all parties grapple with the application of it. The burden of applying the cap has been placed on the Civil Resolution Tribunal (the “CRT”), which previously dealt with strata property disputes and small claims under $5,000. On and after April 1, 2019, the CRT will begin to resolve motor vehicle accident claims of $50,000 and under. The success or failure of these new rules will largely depend on the ability of the CRT to assess these claims. The CRT will now have to interpret and appraise medical legal reports, clinical records, legal arguments from counsel and other issues that were previously considered by the Provincial Court and Supreme Court. The success of the new cap will largely depend on how it is executed by the CRT and the ability of the government to adapt to unforeseen challenges.