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Richmond senior recounts life-altering accident and battle with ICBC

Bike rider Yoshihiro Yanagitani, 74, has been in hospital for months and is now fighting with ICBC over its no-fault insurance

A Richmond senior is struggling to navigate ICBC’s no fault insurance system after a devastating crash two months ago.

Yoshihiro Yanagitani, 74, was out riding his motorcycle near Iona Beach when he got hit by a car that “came out of nowhere.”

“Instantly, I lost everything. Then… I (woke) up in Vancouver General Hospital,” he told the Richmond News from his hospital bed, adding that he doesn’t recall much of the May 7 accident.

Yanagitani was diagnosed with injuries including a fracture beneath his left eye, fractured ribs, and a fractured fibula. He was then transferred to Richmond Hospital a few days later and has remained there since.

His left shoulder, which was dislocated, was only discovered three weeks after his hospitalization.

Yanagitani has been running and operating a car repair shop in Bridgeport, A & A Japanese Engine Specialist, for more than three decades.

But after the accident, he had to close shop and lay off his employees as he could not supervise them.

And Yanagitani’s difficult journey, navigating the insurance system, began not long after he woke up in the hospital.

“Three, four days after (the accident) I called ICBC,” he said, “They just gave me a claim number and then (said) they will contact me after that.”

He did not hear from ICBC, aside from some discussion about the damage to his motorcycle, until he finally got a lawyer.

“Nobody called me for one month, so I (was) just scared,” he explained, adding that he hoped a lawyer would help him overcome the language barrier and better communicate with ICBC.

So far, ICBC has only paid for an occupational therapist to assess whether Yanagitani’s office at the repair shop, where he was staying before the accident, was safe for him after he gets discharged from the hospital.

The office has now been deemed unsafe for him, but the daily accommodation stipend from ICBC, which adds up to around $1,400 per month, has proven to be insufficient for renting a suitable space.

“Our office has looked for places other than publicly-funded care homes, which have a very long wait list,” said Yanagitani’s lawyer, Ryan Kusuhara.

“It’s essentially impossible, within that budget, to find a private facility that’s willing to accommodate (Yanagitani).”

ICBC has also offered Yanagitani $2,750 in compensation for his totalled motorcycle.

However, according to Yanagitani, his 1992 Yamaha Virago 1100 was a collector’s item, kept in brand new condition for more than three decades, and worth much more than what ICBC offered.

Greg Harper, ICBC spokesperson, confirmed that the insurer is currently working with Yanagitani to sort out his claim.

“Our expectation is to contact our customers within five days after their claim has been reported. In this case we didn’t meet that expectation,” said Harper.

“We apologize to Mr. Yanagitani for the initial delay in communication.”

According to Harper, ICBC is waiting for information about his lost income to proceed with his income replacement benefits. Further treatments and benefits will be determined based on recommendations from Yanagitani’s care team once he gets discharged.

Hurdles of the no-fault regime

ICBC’s no-fault insurance was introduced in May 2021, which covers medical costs, income replacement and damage to one’s vehicle. Under the regime, those injured in crashes will not be able to sue against the driver responsible unless they are convicted for specific criminal offences.

One part of the regime is the permanent impairment benefit, which offers a one-off payout to those either catastrophically injured in a crash or otherwise eligible for compensation. The benefit is determined using a formula prescribed by B.C.’s Permanent Impairment Regulation.

“What (Yanagitani) can get immediately, based solely on the discharge report may be as little as $7,000 or less with respect to the permanent impairment benefit, which was, in theory, supposed to compensate pain and suffering,” said Kusuhara.

He explained Yanagitani only has a one-page discharge summary from VGH at hand, and obtaining the relevant records to support his claim, such as x-ray and MRI reports, would take three to four weeks. If he wishes to hire an expert out of pocket to prove he meets the specific criteria, he might end up having to pay the same amount of what he’s entitled to in compensation.

The comprehensive guidelines set out in the law has also proven to be a hurdle in the claim process, as they don’t prescribe what, if anything at all, Yanagitani should get for his very specific circumstance of getting a titanium plate installed beneath his eye to support his eyeball.

Another issue lies in the time it takes for the human body to heal. For example, a person claiming permanent impairment benefits for a forearm fracture would have to prove there was abnormal healing.

“How do you establish abnormal healing? Well, you have to wait for your body to heal. And that takes six months, a year, two years,” said Kusuhara.

Kusuhara estimates his client will be getting around 10 to 20 per cent of what he would’ve received under the old system for his pain and suffering.

He’s also losing money through his business, as the law does not provide for injury victims to be compensated for losses of their business expenses, said Kusuhara.

If Yanagitani disagrees with what ICBC offers him, he will also have to go through a lengthy dispute resolution process through the Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT).

According to CRT statistics, there were 1,200 open motor vehicle injury disputes at the beginning of June. By the end of the month, 19 were resolved by agreement while only one reached the final decision stage.

Kusuhara added that some aspects are out of the ICBC’s control, as the law sets out specific benefits Yanagitani is entitled to.

“The whole premise behind the introduction of the no-fault model was that these contingencies would be covered by way of benefits rather than the injured having to sue the defendants individually for compensation,” said Kusuhara.

“Clearly, there are significant gaps that are left in the legislative system that doesn’t cover adequately at all for individuals like Mr. Yanagitani.”

Yanagitani is by no means the only person affected by the no-fault regime.

“I have had to be upfront about the limited benefits that are available to clients and in most situations, the clients and I had to part our ways… after the initial consultation,” said Kusuhara.

Under the current model, legal fees benefits are also not provided for B.C. car accident insurance. Kusuhara told the News many of the clients who reached out to him would have benefitted from getting a lawyer to help them navigate the system.

“But unfortunately, none of that system is in place to ensure fair delivery of what’s been promised on their insurance,” said Kusuhara.

A GoFundMe fundraiser has been set up for Yanagitani by his customers and friends. It has currently raised around $1,200 out of its goal of $20,000.