With the upcoming election, there have been discussions about the possibility of changes to the way our automobile insurance works. In particular, you may have heard the discussions about a “no fault” insurance system.
Currently, we have what is known as a “pure tort system”, which means that you, if injured by someone driving a vehicle, have a right to seek compensation for your injuries in the courts. This either leads to settlements being reached with the insurer of the driver – usually ICBC – or a trial with a judgment.
This is in contrast to a “pure no fault system”. Under this system, if injured by someone driving a vehicle, you have no right to seek compensation for your injuries in the courts. Rather, you have to accept whatever benefits ICBC decides to pay you for your injuries.
In my opinion the “pure tort system” is the preferred system. The pure no fault system leads to injustice, unfairness, and lack of accountability for drivers who injure others.
To use a simple example, let us say your child is severely injured by a negligent driver who, while texting, runs a red light and strikes your child. Under our current system, you as parents on behalf of your child can seek compensation from that driver, which will ultimately be paid by his insurer. This ensures that your child receives financial compensation to help deal with problems arising from their injury.
However, under the pure no fault system, you as parents would have no right to seek compensation from the driver. Rather, you would have to accept whatever benefits ICBC and the government decides to pay your child, and how they decide to pay them. This of course causes significant problems because the amount they decide to pay will normally be far less than you would get in compensation from the
driver, and also because you will constantly have to be asking for the benefits, which could be reduced or cut off at any time.
I personally see no justification in a pure no fault system. It removes any financial responsibility for drivers who injure others. It puts injured people at the mercy of ICBC and the government and the benefits they decide to hand out. It is in my view a very unfair system that sacrifices the rights of injured people for the benefit of those who cause injuries.
In my next article I will discuss a “modified no fault system” – which is essentially a tort system combined with a no fault system – such as exists in Ontario.