VICTORIA — The B.C. government is going to try and contain financial losses at its Crown-owned auto insurance corporation by reducing the use of experts in accident lawsuits.
The government has amended the rules for civil cases in the B.C. Supreme Court to limit the number of experts and the reports they write in lawsuits involving the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, Attorney General David Eby said Monday .
Accident injury claims have increased 43 per cent in the past five years and the use of experts has contributed to a 20 per cent rise in the corporation’s injury settlements in the past year, Eby told a news conference.
The changes are designed to trim the excesses in the system, he added.
“It doesn’t advance any interest to have six-plus adversarial experts on a claim. It doesn’t advance any interest to have a $50,000 expense to resolve a $100,000 claim.”
Eby, who is also the minister in charge of the Crown corporation, said the agency is on track for a year-end loss of $1.18 billion, compounding the blow of last year’s $1.3 billion deficit. He described the financial situation left by the former Liberal government at ICBC as a “dumpster fire” last year.
Last week he said the financial situation at the public auto insurer is critical and getting worse, with losses of $860 million in the first nine months of this fiscal year.
The Trial Lawyers Association of B.C. said it supports measures to make the civil justice system fairer, faster and cheaper, but it criticized the government for acting unilaterally.
“Passing such consequential changes to our system of civil justice with no legislative debate is undemocratic,” the association said in a statement. “Time and again this government seems to favour ICBC’s financial interests over the legal rights of British Columbians, and this rush to pass restrictions on how victims of negligence must prove their cases at law is the most recent illustration of making car accident victims pay for reckless driving.”
Eby said he expects there will be legal challenges, but added the changes bring B.C. into line with other provinces that limit experts in injury claim cases from motor vehicle accidents. Australia and the United Kingdom have much tougher restrictions on the use of experts and expert reports, he said.
“We believe the balance we have struck between unlimited adversarial experts under the current system and the no adversarial expert rules of other jurisdictions will reduce the costs and delays associated with using duelling experts while preserving a party’s ability to get evidence in front of a court,” Eby said.
The changes mean the parties in injury claims cases are limited to the use of one expert and one report for claims of less than $100,000 and up to three experts and three reports for all other claims.
Eby said the courts will also be able to permit more court-appointed or joint experts at its discretion.
The changes start immediately on motor vehicle accident claims, he said. The government is also considering making the injury expert changes apply to all personal injury claims by Feb. 1, 2020.
“The challenge with the issue, as all issues on this file, is finding the right balance between protecting the interests of British Columbians injured in motor vehicle accidents and finding ways to make the current system work better,” Eby said.
The B.C. Utilities Commission approved ICBC’s request in January to allow for an interim basic auto insurance rate increase of 6.3 per cent.
A number of other cost-saving reforms are also being implemented starting April 1, including higher fines for repeat offenders and a payout limit of $5,500 for minor soft-tissue injuries.
Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press
Electric car sales climb in wake of new $5,000 federal rebate program
OTTAWA — Transport Canada data shows more than 14,000 electric vehicles were purchased nationwide during the first three months of the federal government’s new rebate program.
On May 1, Ottawa began offering rebates of up to $5,000 on the purchase of some electric vehicles.
The rebate is intended to bring the price of zero-emission vehicles closer to their gas-powered cousins.
Dan Woynillowicz, policy director at Clean Energy Canada, says the rebate is the only thing he can point to as a reason why electric car sales jumped 30 per cent since January.
The increase happened despite a drastic drop in electric car purchases in Ontario in the first three months of the year after the province cancelled its rebate in 2018.
The federal government wants 10 per cent of all cars sold to be zero-emission by 2025, 30 per cent by 2030 and 100 per cent of sales by 2040.
The Canadian Press
From Nazis to hippies: End of the road for Volkswagen Beetle
FRANKFURT — Volkswagen is halting production of the last version of its Beetle model this week at its plant in Puebla, Mexico. It’s the end of the road for a vehicle that has symbolized many things over a history spanning eight decades since 1938.
It has been: a part of Germany’s darkest hours as a never-realized Nazi prestige project. A symbol of Germany’s postwar economic renaissance and rising middle-class prosperity. An example of globalization, sold and recognized all over the world. An emblem of the 1960s counterculture in the United States. Above all, the car remains a landmark in design, as recognizable as the Coca-Cola bottle.
The car’s original design — a rounded silhouette with seating for four or five, nearly vertical windshield and the air-cooled engine in the rear — can be traced back to Austrian engineer Ferdinand Porsche, who was hired to fulfil Adolf Hitler’s project for a “people’s car” that would spread auto ownership the way the Ford Model T had in the U.S.
Aspects of the car bore similarities to the Tatra T97, made in Czechoslovakia in 1937, and to sketches by Hungarian engineer Bela Barenyi published in 1934. Mass production of what was called the KdF-Wagen, based on the acronym of the Nazi labour organization under whose auspices it was to be sold, was cancelled due to World War II. Instead, the massive new plant in what was then countryside east of Hanover turned out military vehicles, using forced labourers from all over Europe under miserable conditions.
Re-launched as a civilian carmaker under supervision of the British occupation authorities, the Volkswagen factory was transferred in 1949 to the Germany government and the state of Lower Saxony, which still owns part of the company. By 1955, the millionth Beetle — officially called the Type 1 — had rolled off the assembly line in what was now the town of Wolfsburg.
The United States became Volkswagen’s most important foreign market, peaking at 563,522 cars in 1968, or 40% of production. Unconventional, sometimes humorous advertising from agency Doyle Dane Bernbach urged car buyers to “Think small.”
“Unlike in West Germany, where its low price, quality and durability stood for a new postwar normality, in the United States the Beetle’s characteristics lent it a profoundly unconventional air in a car culture dominated by size and showmanship,” wrote Bernhard Rieger in his 2013 history, “The People’s Car.”
Production at Wolfsburg ended in 1978 as newer front drive models like the Golf took over. But the Beetle wasn’t dead yet. Production went on in Mexico from 1967 until 2003 — longer than the car had been made in Germany. Nicknamed the “vochito,” the car made itself at home as a rugged, Mexican-made “carro del pueblo.”
The New Beetle — a completely retro version build on a modified Golf platform — resurrected some of the old Beetle’s cute, unconventional aura in 1998 under CEO Ferdinand Piech, Ferdinand Porsche’s grandson. In 2012, the Beetle’s design was made a bit sleeker.
The end of the Beetle comes at a turning point for Volkswagen as it rebounds from a scandal over cars rigged to cheat on diesel emissions tests. The company is gearing up for mass production of the battery-driven compact ID.3, a car that the company predicts will have an impact like that of the Beetle and the Golf by bringing electric mobility to a mass market.
The last of 5,961 Final Edition versions of the Beetle is headed for a museum after ceremonies in Puebla on July 10 to mark the end of production.
AP photo blog about the last Volkswagen Beetle: https://bit.ly/32bXuMx
David McHugh, The Associated Press
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