Why You Need to Contact a Lawyer Before Contacting ICBC After a Car Accident
Filing a claim with the Insurance Corporation British Columbia (ICBC) can be challenging. If you contact ICBC, it will require reporting the auto accident in detail, making statements to a claim adjuster, filing any documentation regarding your accident within a certain time frame as well as the ICBC assessing a potential settlement.
Car accident victims have the right to speak with a lawyer first after an accident. It is crucial that you seek legal counsel because any statements made to ICBC could potentially be used against you, which could cause your claim to be denied.
ICBC is Not Your Advocate
ICBC claims adjusters are working to settle claims in a cost-effective manner that benefits the insurer as much as possible. The ICBC claim adjuster’s goal is to pay the lowest amount possible to resolve your claim. This is because when you make a claim against another person’s insurance policy, ICBC has a contractual obligation to defend that person. What this really means is that, other than what ICBC may owe you for No-Fault benefits, ICBC is actually working on behalf of the negligent motorist; the one who injured you in the first place. The claims adjuster may try to persuade you to meet with them and answer questions or ask you to sign a statement. An adjuster may ask you to sign documentation before you have a chance to seek legal advice.
Do Not Sign Documents Without Legal Counsel
You are not required by law to provide ICBC with a signed statement. You are only required to report the accident to ICBC, complete and sign a claim form. ICBC can deny injury claims based on incomplete forms or discontinue benefits without any notice. ICBC is focused on moving the claim along, rather than waiting until you have fully recovered. You should never sign documents following a car accident without guidance from an experienced car accident lawyer.
Do Not Make Statements at the Scene of the Accident
ICBC determines the degree of fault of each party in the accident using specific criteria, which take many factors into account. An adjuster can take statements, review witness accounts, go through police reports and visit the accident scene. While an apology cannot be considered an admission of negligence, as shown by the case of Dupre v Patterson 2013 BCSC 1561, any other statement can be used against you to find fault, as shown by the decision in Koshman v Brodis 2013 BCSC 656.
In that case, the plaintiff claimed damages for injuries suffered in a motor vehicle accident with the defendant. On cross-examination, the defendant acknowledged having given a recorded statement to a police officer at the scene in which she said that the eastbound light had turned red, but she said that her present belief is that the light was green when the plaintiff entered the intersection, but that it changed by the time her car, which was behind the plaintiff’s, reached the intersection.
In the defendant’s later statement noted by ICBC, she told them the light was green. However, she made a statement at the time of the accident to the plaintiff, stating, “Oh my God, I’m so sorry, I didn’t see the red light.”
Naturally, these statements were damaging. The defendant was found 100 percent at fault for the accident. The plaintiff was awarded $133,000 plus additional compensation for lost and future earnings.
ICBC Fault Determination
Fault determination by ICBC could have significant legal and financial fallout when you file a claim without the assistance of a lawyer. For example, if ICBC determines that you are 40 percent at fault for the car accident, you will only receive 60 percent of your damages. Even a partial recovery could prevent you from receiving acceptable compensation to cover your lost wages and other expenses. In addition, your car insurance premium will increase if you are found to be 26% or more at fault.
Hiring an experienced lawyer early can help you prove your case when it comes to ICBC’s fault determination. A lawyer can ask the right questions to get detailed statements from the injured parties and any witnesses. The lawyer could also obtain traffic light sequencing information, look for any video from traffic cameras or retain an accident reconstruction expert. Experienced legal counsel can review police reports and will be able to investigate further to establish who was really at fault. Otherwise, your fate is in the hands of an ICBC adjuster, who may make a 50-50-fault determination if faced with a complicated case. A car accident lawyer can help you challenge ICBC’s decision if the ruling is unsatisfactory.
Also, hiring a lawyer is necessary so that you do not miss important deadlines. The laws and statutes surrounding car accidents require that certain claim information needs to be provided and that certain steps need to be taken within a specific time frame (for example, 30 days up to 2 years) for you to receive compensation.
Don’t Agree to a Settlement Too Early
If you have an ICBC injury claim, the focus is to recover from your injuries. However, most of the time ICBC will only provide partial funding for treatments. Sometimes the insurance company refuses to pay for any treatment for an ICBC injury claim.
You may continue to face complications from injuries even after you have settled with ICBC. If you settle with ICBC too early, you may not receive the full amount to which you are entitled.
A lawyer can look into how the car accident affected your ability to work. If you have lost wages or missed job opportunities, the lawyer can interview your employer to secure evidence to make sure that you are fully compensated. Significant injuries could affect the ability to work in the future. If your injury claim prevents you from working or even precludes you from performing some aspects of your job, our lawyers can include the loss of future earnings as part of your ICBC claim settlement offer.
Contact Us Now for Legal Help With a Car Accident Claim
Klein Lawyers has over 20 years of experience helping motor vehicle accident victims in British Columbia with ICBC claims. We are ready to help investigate the circumstances of your accident and advise you on how to protect your rights when dealing with ICBC. We have recovered fair and just compensation for people just like you. Put our experience to work on your claim.
For assistance with your ICBC claim, contact the office of Klein Lawyers today by phone or online to schedule a free consultation.