I have dealt with injury claims since before Government passed legislation allowing ICBC the exclusive right to sell liability car insurance. Here is what I know you need to know.
Car damage or replacement is usually dealt with quickly based on the actual retail value of the vehicle the day it was damaged.
Regardless of fault, most everyone is entitled to “no fault benefits” for necessary medical and rehabilitation expenses. It is “necessary” if your doctor says it is needed (and it is not restricted to just a maximum of 12 physiotherapy or massage therapy treatments as ICBC may tell you). Also, ICBC restricts or limits the amount you get reimbursed for this treatment but you get it back later as damages for “out of pocket expenses”.
You are also entitled to further no fault benefits right after the accident for “total disability benefits” if you are an “employed person”. It is compensation for lost earnings or wages. It is based on your earnings. You are an “employed person” and entitled if you have a job at time of accident or were gainfully employed six out of the twelve months just before the accident. You can be self-employed and qualify. The type of job or skills you have is important as you still qualify even if there are some jobs you could do but not your job or ones for which you are qualified.
You do not lose your right to benefits, or get cut off benefits, if you hire a lawyer; in fact there are good reasons why hiring a lawyer before applying for benefits is wise.
Truth or half truth? There are TV ads currently running in BC by ICBC as follows:
1. In one commercial about an MVA the male spokesman says “We will take care of you and you will get what you deserve without having to sign anything”. That is not accurate. You might be “taken care of” but you have to realize under our system ICBC has interests that conflict with yours. Also, you will have to sign a medical release so ICBC can obtain clinical records or a medical report from your doctor. ICBC requires medical documentation to justify your “no fault benefits” that I have referred to in points two and three above. Doctors will not give out medical reports or information without you signing an authorization. The advertisement also says “We are there for you” but it you are not represented by a lawyer, you are the only one present to look after your own interests;
2. On January 26, 2015 an ICBC advertisement said following an MVA you can deal with ICBC and obtain treatment “in most cases without any out of pocket expense” to yourself. While it is true in most cases you are entitled to medical and rehabilitation benefits, the responsibility of ICBC to pay for it is limited to an amount set out in a schedule and by agreement with certain medical service providers. For example, the cost of necessary physical therapy is not fully covered by ICBC; they only pay an agreed amount to the physiotherapist and you are responsible to pay the balance or you will not get treatment. You have to pay the difference and claim it back later as part of your damages.
With the cases I have handled historically, most clients end up with more money in their pocket after paying legal fees, than the insurance company offered them before they hired me
In over 40 years in law I have never met a client that knew how to accurately calculate their damages (what the case or injury was worth or they were entitled to for damages for injuries).
If you are dealing directly with the insurance company or the claims handler, employed and paid by the insurance company, you are at a serious disadvantage. It could cost you money. That insurance person you are dealing with is in a conflict position with your best interests.
It costs you nothing to speak with a lawyer about if you have a good claim.
I get paid not one nickel for legal fees until your case is finished by settlement or an award after trial.
WARNING: There are time limits that apply to injury or accident claims that should not be missed as, if you do, one may be prohibited from ever making a claim: a) injury claims generally have to be made within two years from the date the injury happened; b) claims against municipalities (including regional districts) have dangerously short limitations or restrictions: two months written notice of the event and six months to file the claim in court from the time it happened; c) Accident Benefits (so called no fault benefits) have a two year limitation period to file a claim BUT there exists a requirement for notice that says persons “shall promptly give ICBC notice of the accident not later than 30 days from the date of the accident a written report with particulars of the accident and within 90 days give ICBC proof of claim in a form authorized by it” (a printed form). So it is tricky and there are pitfalls to avoid. We protect and ensure these limitations do not affect our clients.
Also be aware there are many civil claims or causes of action people may have (civil court claims for damages, estate or will claims, declarations or other relief in addition to injury claims) where limitation of claims or court actions apply that should not be missed. Checking on the applicable limitation period and dealing with a lawyer is the best way to protect yourself. Doing it sooner than later is best. This applies to claims in British Columbia and elsewhere throughout the world.
Copyright: John M. Hogg