Paul Zelahi has been unable to live with his family since he was injured in a car accident 10 months ago
In October last year, Paul Zelahi was driving down Main Street in North Vancouver to pick up his children when a truck driver in front of him pulled a sudden turn, causing a major collision. The driver was left with a dent in his truck. Zelahi suffered a spinal cord injury that left him with complete quadriplegia.
“In 60 seconds, my life changed. He said.
After months of hard work at GF’s strong rehab center, Zelahi is now using some of his right arm, and his care team has decided he’s ready to move out, though only temporarily, to Creekstone Care Center in the Lane Creek neighborhood of North Vancouver.
That was five months ago.
Zelahi said he is grateful for all the care he has received, but his family desperately needs to get back together.
“We are frustrated. I am sad. My family is sad. We are not united. We need to forgive the past and just be in the present and focus on the future. This is what we are all trying to do.” So hard. My wife is in the utmost care of family and children. And they are sad. …They’re in school, they need a lift, they need encouragement, they need to get through this – seeing me in a wheelchair and quadriplegic.”
Battle with ICBC
Zelahi said the answer is to move the family to a new home that can meet his needs, but that’s not something ICBC was interested in.
A report from a Zilahi occupational therapist stated that his family’s residence would need major renovations to accommodate his wheelchair and necessary medical equipment (and until then, the family would lose their living room).
“With major renovations, he could have access to a bed and a bathroom. However, even with these renovations, Mr. Zelahi did not have the space to perform his personal care in a private and dignified manner.”
Zalahi said that two of the three contractors he spoke with so far said the work would not be possible.
In a statement, ICBC spokesperson Brent Shearer said Zelahi’s move to Crexton was based on the recommendation of his care team, and that the general insurance company would meet with Zelahi’s care team and attorney “to clarify the recommendation for the home renovation.”
“We support Mr. Zalahi’s transition from the care facility to a safe and easily accessible home, and are working with him, his family and his care team on plans to do so,” the statement read. “The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China has received, reviewed and supported the recommendations made by the occupational therapist to Mr. Zelahi to renovate the house, pending approval from the apartment layers. We are now waiting for Mr. Zalahi and his family to obtain permission from the apartment layers to carry out renovations to ensure that his home is accessible and safe.”
Lawyer says there is no fault insurance
Zelahi’s attorney, Robin Wishart, said that even if Zelahi did get the layers’ approval, which in itself would be a daunting task, the option to renew should not be a start. His house is located on the second floor of an apartment, which makes him dependent on an elevator that will be closed in case of fire.
He will die from smoke inhalation or burn to death. So going to classes to fix or repair condominiums is not the problem, and we think ICBC is aware of that. “The solution given to the family is, first of all, unsafe, and secondly, unrealistic for that family. … It must be transferred immediately.”
Wishart said that with the change to Enhanced Care, where the county calls the fault-free insurance system, people who have experienced injuries have lost their ability to sue to get the support they need.
“If this is in the usual course and everyone in British Columbia has a million dollar policy, we will demand the limits of the policy. He will get the money and he will be able to buy a house and move in that simple,” she said.
Zalahi had been running his own coffee business before the accident. Wishart noted that this income has been lost, and every day, there are people with injuries who will then have to navigate the augmentative care system without legal assistance.
“People don’t understand when they get hit by the road ahead,” she said. “The number of people whose economic future has completely changed will continue to grow.”
Zelahi said he would like to change the regulations.
“Because right now, the ICBC is in control of everything,” he said. “I am not the only one. I am here, being a voice for others.”
Minister says enhanced care has improved
In a statement, Public Safety Secretary and Attorney General Mike Farnworth said the switch to enhanced care aims to reduce the deductible and reduce the amount paid in legal costs.
“Within Enhanced Care, ICBC’s recovery specialists focus solely on helping each affected client get the care they need – a shift that ICBC has wholeheartedly embraced, with informed staff training by valued stakeholders in healthcare, disability and medicine. British Columbians injured in road accidents receive all the care they need, led by the client’s doctor and preferred healthcare providers. Our thoughts are with Mr. Zalahi and his family throughout this life-changing event.”
British Columbians may have cheaper car insurance premiums, Zelahi said, but others are paying the costs.
“The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China is saving millions of dollars,” he said. “Then here I am.”