Last month the British Columbia Supreme Court ordered ICBC to pay $350,000 in punitive damages to a woman that the insurance company wrongly accused of fraud – an amount that will ultimately come out of the pockets of ICBC’s policy holders.
The woman had fallen to the ground when a vehicle struck her husband in a crosswalk, nearly hitting her as well. The insurance company investigated her claim and accused her of submitting a false statement. They had the woman criminally charged with fraud, and attempted to interfere with the couple’s immigration application.
The woman’s charges were dropped on the first day of her criminal trial, but the damage was done. ICBC had attacked her credibility and her integrity, shaming her for making what turned out to be a valid insurance claim.
The timing of this court decision is unfortunate for ICBC. The insurance company recently launched an anti-fraud campaign, funded by its policy holders, and making bold allegations that up to 20% of all claims are fraudulent or exaggerated. In January, the insurance company released its top 6 fraud cases of 2015, what it calls “ICBC’s Hall of Shame.”
There is no denying that fraud is a problem in the insurance industry, but is it a problem big enough for an expensive media campaign? In an interview with Global News, a representative of ICBC admits that the vast majority of its customers do make honest claims. In fact, of the 900,000 claims that ICBC receives annually, only 100 or so actually lead to fraud convictions.
I’m now wondering why ICBC is using our monthly premiums to advertise its self-titled “Hall of Shame.” Only a small fraction of insurance claims are proven to be fraudulent, and as we’ve now seen, ICBC can easily get it wrong. Broadcasting these fraud cases will no doubt cast suspicion on otherwise innocent accident victims – people who don’t look injured, but may be suffering from soft tissue pain.
ICBC has a right and a duty to investigate fraudulent claims, but it must do so fairly and within reason, because ultimately it’s the policy holders who will pay the price.
One of ICBC’s key purposes and reasons for existence is to serve the residents of British Columbia, by providing compensation when someone is injured in a motor vehicle accident. The corporation does not serve the residents of this province when it uses tactics of intimidation to discourage civil claims.
– Justice Susan Griffin
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