Handling a no-fault car accident in BC

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Please note I am not a lawyer. This post is based on my personal experience only.

If you are in BC and thinking about hiring a lawyer to assist you with your claim, I recommend Prezler Law. This is not a sponsored post. 

Also note this post is specific to British-Columbia and may not be applicable elsewhere. 

A couple of months ago, I settled with ICBC regarding a car accident I was involved in back in October 2017, and for which I was not responsible. I sustained injuries.

In British-Columbia, basic coverage with ICBC is mandatory for all drivers. A couple of other insurers provide optional/additional coverage, but most drivers are insured solely by ICBC.  I am no exception.

Here are the key take-aways from my personal experience.

YOUR INSURER IS NOT YOUR FRIEND

I mentioned this several times, but insurance companies are not charities. Their goal is to make money. When a driver is found to be not-at-fault in a crash, said driver becomes a liability for the insurer.

The goal of the insurance company is to minimize the potential liability by closing the case as fast as possible, and at the lowest cost possible.

LAWYER-UP

Assessing the dollar value of personal injuries is a complex process, even for specialists. If you are not a specialist, chances are you won’t know how much to claim, but also what you can claim.

Most people think they can only ask for lost wages and medical expenses. Did you know you can also claim for pain and suffering, other out-of-pocket expenses, future income, future care costs, legal fees and interests to name a few?

Having a lawyer will also ensure you don’t miss any deadlines and fill-in the required paperwork. ICBC has no obligation of informing its customers on both these points….so it doesn’t.

In British-Columbia, you have 2 years to start legal action. If you want to claim injuries, you also need to fill-in additional paperwork. There is a deadline for this as well. The process is not automatic.

DON’T RUSH TO SETTLE

It can be tempting to receive some cash a few weeks after an accident. This is counter-productive and could actually be very detrimental depending on your injuries.

The best time to settle is when you are back to the level you were at prior to the accident, i.e. when you are healed or feeling much better that you are able to do your usual activities. I waited for 7 months before telling my lawyer I was ready to settle. This was the point my life was back to “almost normal”.

DUTY TO MITIGATE

Sorry for the legalese! This simply means you have an obligation to do whatever it takes to treat your injuries and get better.

This is the most critical part of any personal injury claim. Listen to your doctor, take your medication, go to physiotherapy, take time off work, hire a cleaning service…etc…etc.

If you have extended health coverage, use it. In British Columbia, ICBC is considered a “secondary insurer”, meaning the crown corporation is under no obligation to pay you any medical benefits until you have exhausted your other options.

BEWARE OF THE INFLATED/FRAUDULENT CLAIM

I don’t mean to sound lecturing here -maybe I actually do-, but if you are not actually injured, do not claim injury.

ICBC has reported a deficit of $ 860 millions for their fiscal year so far. Since it is the only insurer in BC, it means all drivers are paying for that deficit in the form of premium hikes. …

 

Auto insurance basics in BC

In Canada, auto insurance is mandatory. Each province and territory has its own requirements. Since I live in British-Columbia, I will provide information about how it works in this province.

In British-Columbia, there are no private auto insurance providers. Auto insurance is administered by ICBC, a crown corporation run by the Provincial Government. It usually is quite a shock when newcomers to BC find out there is no such thing as “shopping for auto insurance” and “compare quotes”.

Insurance is bought and renewed through an ICBC Autoplan broker. All dealerships have a broker so you don’t leave with your new car uninsured. This is not necessarily the case in other provinces.

ICBC mandates basic coverage. It includes:

  • Third-party liability up to $ 200 000: if you are found at fault in a crash, both driver and passengers of the other vehicle can sue you for their medical treatment costs, as well as lost wages and an array of other items.
  • Autoplan accident benefits: If you are injured in an accident, ICBC will pay for some of your medical expenses and lost wages, even if you are at fault.
  • Underinsured motorist protection, up to $1 million: if a driver involved in a crash is not insured or underinsured.
  • Hit & run up to $ 200 000: this coverage is available to all residents of BC, even if you don’t have a vehicle
  • Inverse liability protection: certain parts of Canada do not allow you to sue another driver in case of a crash. ICBC will cover your costs if you are involved in an accident outside of the province.

And that’s it!

Did you notice some items are missing such as collision? You are right, this is not included in the basic ICBC coverage. Got a crack on your windshield? Not included either!

Most British-Colombians elect to purchase the following extra coverage:

  • Collision: repairs to your car in case of accident, even when at-fault. This also comes with a deductible. In BC, you only pay for the deductible if you are at-fault.
  • Comprehensive: this covers you in case of a crack in your windshield or if you hit an animal or hail damages. There is also a deductible for this.
  • Extended third-party liability: in case of a lawsuit, 200K may not be enough, depending on the nature of the injuries, the type of income and the number of people suing you. Lawsuits are pretty much the norm. You can purchase coverage for up to $ 5 millions.

You can find all the optional coverage products here.

In terms of costs, it also expensive. It is very common to pay $ 120.00/month with a very good driving record and reasonable coverage. A lot of items impact your premiums such as the usage of the vehicle and the type of vehicle. The fact that ICBC has monopoly doesn’t help either.

That being said, the driving factor – no pun intended!- behind the high cost of auto insurance is injury claims and lawsuits. These are extremely expensive.