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ICBC pays Chilliwack man like a student because he was retraining when injured in a crash

‘I’m sure I’m not the only one out there in same predicament. It’s clearly not fair’ - Patrick Pendergast
Patrick Pendergast of Chilliwack is frustrated by ICBC’s new “Enhanced Care” no-fault insurance program, which is paying him as a student because he was injured in a vehicle accident while retraining for a new job. He had been being paid by WorkSafeBC because he was injured at his job as a truck driver, now the difference in income is putting him in debt, and ruining his credit rating. (Submitted photo)

Patrick Pendergast was injured in 2019 while working as a truck driver.

That physical injury prompted the 56-year-old to make a career change, to get out of physical labour.

He entered a WorkSafe BC program to retrain as an accounting technician, and he started taking online classes at Thompson Rivers University.

One day in 2021 he was in his vehicle when another driver blew through a stop sign and slammed into him.

“He told me to my face I didn’t see you,” Pendergast told The Progress.

He was left with a concussion and soon the school work became too challenging.

“I had really been struggling with my studies because of the concussion,” he said. “Not only focus but retaining information.”

Enter ICBC and the new “Enhanced Care” program’s no-fault insurance.

While Pendergast was being retrained to be an accounting technician, he was funded through a lost wage benefit by WorkSafeBC. ICBC, however, sees Pendergast as a student so they are paying for his education.

“Maybe they could explain how a person is suppose to go from $3,200 a month to $1,500 a month and having to wait seven months to get it?” he asks.

When asked about his case, ICBC pointed out they compensated him $31,650 under the “loss of studies benefit,” but Pendergast said this meant $10,550 every seven months and not in advance.

“Mr. Pendergast was unemployed at the time of the crash so he is not entitled to income replacement benefits under regulations that ICBC must adhere to,” ICBC told The Progress.

His response?

“Yes, I was unemployed at the time but I was receiving a “lost wage benefit,” he said. “I have to claim this benefit on my income tax, so how is this not considered a wage?”

The whole process has been extremely stressful for Pendergast and his wife who has had a double-hip replacement and is also disabled.

Because of the seven-month delay in getting the paltry ICBC studies benefit, he was left to find a way to pay his bills, rent and food.

“By the time that first seven months was over I was so far behind on my bills and I couldn’t pay my credit cards. This accident caused me to go through Sands & Associates to file a personal arrangement with my creditors. My credit score is ruined because of this.

“Just because this is what their regulations say, doesn’t make it fair.”

No to No Fault campaign

Pendergast’s story was shared by the No to No Fault Campaign, which is a creation of the Trial Lawyers of BC who have pushed back against Enhanced Care since it was first announced.

The new no-fault model means victims of motor vehicle accidents can no longer sue the person responsible for the crash unless the perpetrator is convicted of a criminal code driving offence such as impaired driving or dangerous driving causing injury or death, which is very rare.

“The no-fault scheme is so unfair that the government was scared to tell the public what it is,” Vancouver lawyer Erk Magraken told The Progress in September in relation to a story where a young woman on a skateboard was killed by an allegedly drunk driver in Rosedale. “They had to mislead the public with a multi-million-dollar marketing campaign calling it ‘enhanced care.’ As victims of serious crashes are finding out one after the other there is nothing enhanced about it.”

READ MORE: Family of Chilliwack teenager killed by driver sees next to nothing thanks to ICBC no-fault insurance

Magraken said the ability to sue another driver who caused an accident, even a fatality, is essentially nil.

“Here’s a sneaky catch,” he said. “The police have been told (via regulation that accompanied the no-fault roll out) that they need not even attend the vast majority of crashes. No police attending = no investigation = no charges = no conviction = no accountability.”

For its part, an ICBC spokesperson said they are doing what they can to support Pendergast and ensure he is able to access the care and recovery benefits available to him.

Specifically, they say Pendergast has been evaluated by an occupational therapist who said he is physically and medically capable of working and studying. The evaluation recommended certain treatments that ICBC says he is not following through on.

“Our records show Mr. Pendergast’s last treatment session took place a year ago in December 2021. We will follow up with him to ensure he is fully aware of the treatment options available.”

Pendergast said any therapy he was having wasn’t working, and he was “incredibly stressed out” due to financial concerns.

“I couldn’t focus on my well being when I had to worry about money all the time. ICBC has no idea what we have been through and I seriously don’t think they care.”

ICBC also said that under the former litigation-based model, there is no certainty that he would have received the care and recovery he needs now and over his lifetime.

“If he were to sue under the former model, a trial would have taken years and his lawyer would take one-third of any settlement as fees,” the spokesperson said via email.

Pendergast admits that he knows the former model wasn’t perfect, but the stress he has endured under the current system has been terrible.

“I’m sure I’m not the only one out there in same predicament,” he said. “It’s clearly not fair. It’s not like I was looking for (money for) pain and suffering. I was looking to replace the WorkSafe BC income.

“The system is broken and it needs to be fixed.”

As for what’s next, he’s filed a complaint with the ombudsperson’s office, but he was told there is nothing they can do about it.

In a statement promoting the Enhanced Care model, ICBC president and CEO Nicolas Jimenez said government and the corporation listened to British Columbians when said auto insurance was not affordable.

“B.C. now has some of the most affordable auto insurance in Canada while also providing anyone injured in a crash with significantly improved care and recovery benefits when compared with the old model.”

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