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What You Need to Know About an ICBC Claim
Navigating an Insurance Corporation British Columbia (ICBC) claim can be most challenging. Contact with ICBC may entail the initial auto accident reporting, speaking to the claim adjuster, filing the appropriate documentation correctly within the time limits and potentially assessing a settlement offer. It may be quite beneficial to have an experienced personal injury lawyer assist you from the outset if you are injured in a car accident.
Initial Steps to Take
The first step after a car accident injury is to ensure that you and any other injured parties receive medical attention, usually by calling the police (which will dispatch an ambulance) for emergency assistance. Once the accident has been reported to the police, you will also need to report the incident to ICBC (usually within 24-48 hours is recommended); this action is to ensure proper coverage for your claim.
Shortly thereafter (within 30 days), you must provide a written report detailing the particulars of the accident and any resulting injuries. Within 60 days after the accident, a proof of claim must be submitted. ICBC will then use the information you provide to determine whether you were at fault for the motor vehicle accident, and if so, to what degree.
ICBC’s Fault Determination
ICBC’s fault determination is crucial, as it may have significant legal and financial repercussions for a tort claim. For example, if ICBC finds you were 30 percent at fault for the accident, you will only receive 70 percent of the compensation that is determined. This partial recovery can impede you from having adequate damages to cover medical treatment and rehabilitation services needed for your full recovery.
Adding to the challenges you now face, your insurance premium may increase if you are found at fault unless you’ve been claim-free for a certain time. It is important to provide ICBC with detailed and thorough information to prove you were not at fault or to significantly reduce the fault percentage determination attributed to you.
Retaining an experienced lawyer early on can help minimize ICBC’s fault determination attributed to you by collecting all relevant and persuasive information regarding the incident. For example, your lawyer will ask the right questions to get detailed statements from you, your passengers and any witnesses; request and review police reports and even hire an accident reconstruction specialist if necessary to prove your fault contribution is minimal, if any. A properly conducted investigation and report can make a difference in establishing your level of fault. Otherwise, if the adjuster finds the matter too complex, ICBC may simply make a 50-50-fault determination.
Challenging ICBC’s Fault Determination
Even after ICBC provides you with its ruling on your fault contribution, there is still an opportunity to challenge the adjuster’s decision within 60 days by filing a Claims Assessment Review or filing a claim in court. A personal injury lawyer in Vancouver can help you assess your options and pursue the best avenue for your case.
The Importance of Retaining a Personal Injury Lawyer
It is imperative to retain a lawyer early on in your case to ensure each step of the claim process is properly completed. It is especially important to have an experienced lawyer represent you at trial as there are discreet areas of law that can help or hurt your case. For example, you must prove that the injuries you sustained are because of the accident and not a pre-existing injury; you must prove the accident caused the injuries.
Having a lawyer thoroughly understand your medical condition before and after the accident and collect the evidence to prove it in court can make a significant impact on the settlement amount you are awarded. Your personal injury lawyer can hire competent doctors to assess your injuries, provide a report, and testify in court.
In Hartnett v. Leischner & ICBC, for example, the court found the defendant wholly liable, so the plaintiff was awarded $237,000. The defendant argued that his medical expert demonstrated the plaintiff’s hip injury was pre-existing and because the plaintiff failed to report the injury immediately after the accident, it was not caused by the accident. However, the plaintiff’s lawyer retained its own expert witness that successfully proved the plaintiff previously had no hip issues. The plaintiff’s lawyer was further able to prove that the plaintiff’s reluctance to disclose his hip injury immediately was due to his character as a man who disliked complaining.
Another reason to hire a personal injury lawyer to deal with ICBC after an accident is that, due to your medical condition and the added stress involved, you may not be able to devote your full attention to a detailed claims process.
In Letchumanapillai v. ICBC, for example, a self-represented plaintiff claimed to have been struck by two motor vehicles in one day, just moments apart. The court found that the plaintiff gave inconsistent evidence throughout discovery and at trial, and was unable to meaningfully cross-examine any witnesses. The court ultimately found no liability against the defendants and dismissed the plaintiff’s claims. Had the plaintiff retained a lawyer early in the case, the lawyer could have advised the plaintiff to properly document his medical condition, gather witness testimony and properly conduct a cross-examination of the defendants, giving the plaintiff a better chance of obtaining some damage award for his injuries.
A final stage where a lawyer can help you are during settlement negotiations. Once ICBC offers you a settlement, it can be difficult to assess whether it is a fair amount given your circumstances. Many people make the mistake of settling for too little, too early. An experienced lawyer can compare cases with similar injuries given how the injuries will affect your daily life, employment, out-of-pocket expenses and rehabilitation, and help you determine what offer is reasonable. A lawyer can demand details of how the adjuster arrived at their offer and negotiate to ensure you receive a fair amount.
Speak to Paine Edmonds LLP to Help You Against a ICBC Injury Lawyer in Vancouver
It is wise to obtain medical assistance and independent legal advice if you are injured after a car accident in Vancouver. ICBC is under no obligation to assist you; the ICBC lawyers in Vancouver represent ICBC and not your interests. For your free initial legal consultation, contact Paine Edmonds LLP. We can assist you with your ICBC claim. Call us at 1-800-669-8599 today!