Salmon Arm  

Motorcyclist stuck in insurance no-man's land thanks to BC's no-fault system

Insurance no-man's land

John Bird has been stuck in insurance limbo for a year and a half following a collision on his motorcycle.

Bird was "in transition" between living in Alberta and relocating to British Columbia when when was struck by an unsecured kayak that flew out of the back of a passing truck.

The impact sent him flying, broke his neck in two places and laid him flat on his back for eight weeks as he recovered.

The Malakwa resident said he had only been in B.C. a few weeks and his motorcycle was still insured in Alberta when he went for a ride to enjoy a nice summer day.

He decided to ride to Nakusp, and the incident happened south of Revelstoke on Highway 23.

"A pickup pulled out to pass me – on a solid line – and was running out of room. There was another truck coming the other way," Bird recalls.

"He pulled back in very close in front of me."

And, as the driver did so, the two kayaks in the back of the box came flying out.

"One hit me square on ... The next thing I know, I wake up and there was a highway worker standing over me and I was in a tangle of trees."

Bird was thrown across the ditch by the impact.

"What just happened?" he asked.

First responders had to use a chainsaw to get him out, and he was rushed by ambulance into Revelstoke.

When X-rays revealed his broken neck, he was transferred to Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops.

Bird also suffered massive bruising and a dislocated knee.

"It's taken a year and a half to get back on my feet again," he says.

But that's only half his troubles.

Because the crash wasn't his fault, Bird assumed the truck driver's liability insurance would cover his damages. But B.C.'s new "no fault" insurance system denied his claim because the bike was still Alberta plated.

"How is this possible?" asked Bird. "To this day, I've not received a dime from ICBC."

The truck driver was handed a $173 ticket for having an unsecured load and drove away.

"Why do we even have liability insurance? Isn't that what it's for?" says Bird.

He's waging a publicity war to draw attention to what he says is an unfair system. He gets that the province sought to control spiralling legal costs, but says legitimately injured parties could have "no case" if they're from out of province.

"ICBC closed their file ... the other driver didn't even come over to see if I was OK. He just picked up his kayaks and left.

"I have no recourse. I can't hire a lawyer because they're locked out of the system under no-fault."

He says he's got "no way" of taking on a giant like ICBC in a civil claim. "To them, I'm just a guy with a gripe."

"It makes a mockery of the entire insurance industry," he says.

Bird, who who is 62, says doctors have signed off on long-term disability for him, but he is no longer the fit, mobile specimen he used to be. Just standing for long is too much for him.

His Alberta insurer has provided "a few dollars," but Bird says it doesn't cover much.

"People are unaware of what can happen to them if they are in an accident," he says.

Bird must take morphine daily to deal with his pain and can barely raise his arms above his head.

His Alberta insurer wants him to see health-care practitioners in that province, but he no longer lives in the province and can't handle the travel anyway.

"I'm pretty much on my own," he said.

Bird has until next June to consider seeking compensation through B.C.'s Civil Resolution Tribunal, but admits the labyrinthine steps he must go through have him discouraged.

"The worst part is this was all so preventable," he says.

ICBC’s Enhanced Care system went into effect in May 2021.

In an accident, regardless of fault, both parties are entitled to the same benefit schedule, and plaintiffs can only sue the at-fault driver if they are convicted of a criminal offence, like impaired driving.

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