It can be hard to put a price tag on the value of labour, but for one Nanaimo man the answer from ICBC is crystal clear — and it’s not what he expected.
Last August, Nico Wouterlout was walking down the street when a speeding vehicle ran a red light and hit him.
He was just 24 years old at the time of the crash.
“I was on the sidewalk, next to an intersection waiting for the light to switch. So I crossed the street and a car ran a red light, and then hit another car, which lost control,” Wouterlout recalled during an interview. “It was kind of a split-second kind of thing. I was listening to music and then I looked up, I heard a big bang, and then basically before I could really react I saw the car was heading straight for me.”
He was hospitalized and left with a broken tibia, fibula, one vertebra and two torn ligaments in his right knee.
It took until February for Wouterlout to reach a settlement with ICBC. He says he received slightly less than $7,000 — $6,886.16 to be exact.
Eight months later, his recovery is far from over and the settlement has dried up, forcing to dip into his savings to cover the bills.
“I mean, obviously, $7,000 isn’t enough to cover expenses for eight months,” Wouterlout said.
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“I’ve spoken to lawyers before, but they haven’t really been able to help me very much under the no-fault system, because I can’t really sue the driver, unless they get charged criminally,” he said.
To make matters worse, he says the provincial insurer doesn’t consider there to be any lost wages.
“Due to the fact that I was a [seasonal] tree planter prior to the accident, ICBC told me that I was ineligible for any wage compensation initially,” he wrote in a previous email to CHEK.
Since then, he’s undergone three surgeries and hasn’t been able to work. That was seven months ago, and at this rate, he says he doesn’t think he’ll be able to return to work for another five months.
By that time, over a year will have passed — and with it an entire season of work he financially relies on.
ICBC limited payouts for minor injuries
Previously, when someone received a minor injury from a motor vehicle accident and filed a claim with ICBC, the average amount paid out for pain and suffering was roughly $30,000.
However, in April 2019, ICBC implemented several new rules, including a reduction in the maximum amount that the agency is willing to pay in such cases.
The new maximum amount is now $5,500, significantly lower than the previous average of $30,000.
ICBC says the change was necessary after claims made for minor injuries saw a 265 per cent increase since 2000.
Meanwhile, serious injuries such as fractures, broken bones and life-changing injuries only increased by 26.5 per cent in the same period.
According to ICBC, the change was made in an effort to control the rising rates and keep the insurance model sustainable.
For Wouterlout, the situation is bleak.