Recent BC case highlights personal injury law’s major shift under no-fault auto …

Johnston added that “the no-fault system is very much you-get-what-we-tell-you-you-get and nothing more, and there is very little ability to challenge those limitations for a couple of reasons. One is, as Ms. Nishimura found out, you’re not able to seek out any sort of equitable evaluation of being made whole in the sense of traditional tort law of setting people back to where they were and compensating for the loss they had.

“The other piece of it is that it is essentially impossible to get a lawyer to represent you in these sorts of claims… To go and pursue this with a lawyer, she would have had to pay out of pocket, and lawyers in British Columbia are basically no longer taking on personal injury motor-vehicle claims for contingency. There is no money to recover at the end of the day. For personal injury lawyers it is the prospect of a settlement that allows our legal fees to be paid and allows an injured person to access legal help. Without the prospect of a settlement, people cannot get lawyers. You’re transitioning into a world where rather than having lawyers assist you with personal injury claims, you have to do it yourself, or you have to not pursue it, which goes on in a lot of cases.”

Johnston believes that without lawyers assisting them, accident victims aren’t just being denied full legal recourse to address what happened to them but all of the other assistance that personal injury lawyers tend to provide.  

“Before no fault, we were a front-line service for helping people who had recently been in an accident deal with finding a doctor, accessing their benefits either through extended health or through their auto insurer, dealing with submitting a claim, dealing with an employer who wasn’t being properly accommodating with their injuries. You developed all these skills that are non-traditional things that you would learn in law school but are important to a client who might have serious injuries and isn’t in the position to take care of all these things they suddenly have to deal with. That role of assisting the client is something I think a lot of people are probably missing now that they have to deal with these issues on their own.”

The no-fault insurance program was initiated in 2021, in the middle of the pandemic, during a time when people commuted and travelled less frequently than they did before COVID-19. Those factors might be why lawyers like Johnston and Victoria, BC-based managing partner of the MacIsaac Group, Erik Magraken, keep getting calls from people looking to hire them to help with car accident claims.

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