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Some people are fortunate to have medical benefit plans provided by their employers or unions that cover things like prescriptions for drugs and therapy provided by chiropractors, physiotherapists, massage therapy and others. Pacific Blue Cross, Great West Life and Sun Life are common providers in BC. So, if you have been injured in a car accident caused by another person, and ICBC benefits are available to you, it seems odd that you are then required to submit your MVA injury treatment costs claims through your own extended health benefits provider (if you have one). You may be wondering why you are required to submit your medical expenses to your own benefits plan for reimbursement, rather than to ICBC after an accident that wasn’t your fault?
After a car accident you may be prescribed painkillers or muscle relaxants, as well as treatment such as physiotherapy and chiropractic care. You may need crutches or other mobility aids. Then, you are told that you have to submit these expenses to your own benefits provider, rather than submit them to ICBC. This seems unfair to many people because it appears to violate the principle that it should be the other driver, who was at-fault for the accident, and their insurance, that should pay for your injuries and treatments needed to recover, and that these costs should not come from benefits under your own extended health care insurance.
Your own benefits likely have lifetime limits and you want to save those benefits for other medical issues unrelated to the car accident. This might be particularly true if you already have a pre-existing condition, such as diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease or cancer that makes heavy demands on your benefits, or such demands are foreseeable in the future. Why should you have to use those benefits for a car accident that was not your fault, only to risk having inadequate coverage later when you need it for some other reason?
The answer is because under the BC Insurance (Vehicle) Act, ICBC is, what is a called a “secondary insurer”, meaning the accident benefits it provides are payable “second” to any other benefits you have. This is not a policy adopted by ICBC to frustrate people, though it may seem like it, rather, it is a law created by our legislature, so there is little that can realistically be done about it.
However, thankfully, this requirement is not as unfair as it seems. This is because almost all benefits providers have the right to collect back from ICBC the amount of benefits they paid to you when you submitted your receipts to them. Technically, this is called subrogation, but really it just means that, although your benefits were depleted by receipts submitted to them for the car accident, the other driver’s insurance has to replenish those benefits at the end of your case.
In other words, in the end, the driver who is at fault for the accident (or rather, his insurer) ends up paying your benefits plan back for the cost of the prescriptions and treatment you submitted to your extended health benefits insurer. One benefit of having a lawyer after a car accident is that it is their job to make sure ICBC reimburses your benefits plan. Without a lawyer, this sometimes gets overlooked, and you end up having no benefits available to you under a plan you paid for, because someone else’s carelessness hurt you. Now that is unfair.
I hope you have learned something about the law from this blog. Please feel free to like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and subscribe to our YouTube channel to receive notice of our future weekly video blogs on the law. If you have been injured in a car accident in BC – contact the League and Williams team via phone at 250-888-0002 or via email at email@example.com – we only work for injured accident victims (not ICBC), offer free consultations, and pay for treatment costs when ICBC won’t.