Jessica Peters is a reporter at the Chilliwack Progress.

Jessica Peters is a reporter at the Chilliwack Progress.

COLUMN: Models of care have varied greatly between ICBC and WorkSafe

Fighting to prove serious injuries doesn’t help anybody

When I was 15, I was hit by an excessive speeder (113km/h) from behind on a narrow highway. I was on a bicycle and without a helmet.

I hit the bumper, the hood, the windshield, the ground. I had moved into the oncoming lane because his driving was erratic — or at least that’s what we can piece together because in 28 years I’ve not recalled that moment. There was a dip in the road and he lost sight of me, so he changed lanes, too.

I had to fight with ICBC from the time an adjuster snuck into my room on the children’s ward, to when I turned 19. I had to prove my pain, both mentally and physically. I had to prove it repeatedly. My friends had to speak on my behalf, and be misquoted by ICBC’s adjusters. My parents came under scrutiny. My decision making was questioned.

In the end, I was found half at fault. By the time I paid the law firm, I had $30,000 and change in my pocket. Just enough to ride me through college without needing a part-time job. Considering my skull had been split at the back like a melon just four years prior, it seemed like a good enough trade off.

I’m 43 and still suffer with pain. The money and support, in the form of paid physiotherapy, is long gone.

READ MORE: ‘Fault matters’ at ICBC, injured people matter more, B.C. premier says

Contrast that to just a few years ago when I was in a head-on collision with a semi truck. I was working and so was the other driver, which means this kind of vehicle incident falls under the purview of WorkSafe BC.

Worksafe has a mandate to keep insurance premiums low, while getting workers back to the job site as soon as possible. That means a few things. It means that they get you into their specialists as soon as possible. It means they work hard to rehabilitate you, while educating you about going back to work safely.

I suffered a concussion, whiplash, three broken bones in my dominant hand, and trauma. Airbags stretched the right side of my body so my head was tilted back, while my gear shift (right) hand slammed into the car itself.

This was going to be a long process to heal. In the days after the accident I wondered if I would ever even write again. I had been through ICBC before, and that was my only knowledge of post-accident care. But I didn’t have to prove my pain to anyone. Nobody doubted my injuries. They inquired and cared and looked for ways to help me.

I was given full access to a long menu of services, from hand physiotherapy to an intensive, long term, daily concussion clinic.

This was an entirely different beast of burden — and the entire time, my pay was being covered by WorkSafe. Of course, this insurer is not without its own limitations and faults. There is a lot of paperwork for both the patient and their doctors. There can be lags in pay, and not every WorkSafe phone representative is trained in empathy.

READ MORE: VIDEO: B.C. to reduce ICBC rates, further restrict people from suing

As I healed and was back at work, it got harder and harder to get a return phone call. But they got me there, and just in a matter of months. They even provided an occupational therapist who worked hard with my employer to make sure the gradual return to work was manageable for everyone.

No, there will be no big balloon payment at the end of a long legal battle. But when I look back in retrospect, immediate care and attention, free and easy medical access, and emotional support has a value as well.

Of course, there’s no telling how the announced changes to ICBC will roll out, or if they’ll be similar to WorkSafe’s model of care. But if they at least start caring about injured parties, I predict we’ll all be better off.


 

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