The Insurance Corp. of B.C. is splitting up $600 million in savings from the COVID-19 drop in travel and accident claims, with refunds averaging $190 for drivers who had active vehicle insurance between April 1 and Sept. 30 of 2020.
B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said cheques will go out to qualified policy-holders, with a portion of the rebate for those who had insurance for part of the period. The refund meets a campaign commitment the NDP made last fall when the early election was called, he said.
The pandemic dip in claims and the rebate program do not affect the implementation of ICBC’s new rate structure and claims system, which is expected to lead to an average 20 per cent decline in mandatory and optional vehicle insurance, Farnworth said. The “enhanced care” system takes savings from eliminating court battles over most injury claims, and capping the payouts for “pain and suffering” due to injuries deemed minor.
The B.C. government covered a $1 billion deficit for ICBC in its 2019 budget, after the Crown corporation recorded its second deficit that size. The province then moved to expand its Civil Resolution Tribunal to settle most injury disputes out of court, predicting that move would save ICBC $1.5 billion in legal fees, courtroom experts and other related costs.
ICBC reported in May 2020 that it had seen a decrease of 46 per cent in accident and injury claims due to COVID-19 restrictions that caused travel to decrease. It also reported that 100,000 vehicle insurance policies were cancelled.
ICBC now says it has received 35 per cent fewer crash and injury claims than expected last year, with an estimated impact of $720 million in savings. With people reducing or cancelling their insurance, premium revenue is down $120 million compared with what it would normally be.