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. …

 

Handling an at-fault car accident in BC

 

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Please note that I am not a lawyer, nor do I work for ICBC. This post is based on my own experience only. 

British-Columbia is one of 3 provinces in Canada that has an at-fault system when it comes to car accidents. In legalese, it is called tort.

It means the non-faulty party has the right to sue the at-fault driver for various damages related to the car accident, such as loss of wages, medical expenses, pain and suffering etc…

This is what happened to me when I was involved in a collision 4 years ago, for which I was found 100% responsible. Both the other driver and their passengers claimed injuries and sued me 2 years later in the BC Supreme Court.

IF YOU ARE SERVED, BRING THE DOCUMENTS TO ICBC

in BC, people have 2 years to sue. I was served a Notice of Civil Claim 6 weeks before the limitations were to expire. If it happens to you, do not panic. Bring the documents to any claim centre. ICBC will take it from there.

This is why you pay them for basic third-party liability insurance. the crown corporation will cover the legal costs and any damage assessed up to $ 200 000. If you pay for extended third-party liability insurance, your coverage will be greater, up to $ 5 millions if you wish.

do not contact the other driver 

No matter how upset or surprised you may be, there is no need to contact the other party.

ICBC will handle everything on your behalf. You will not be consulted on how to handle the lawsuit. Your appointed lawyer will also not take any direction from you in the matter.

This is why you pay for third-party liability insurance. Precisely so that you don’t have to do much….which brings me to the next point.

DUTY TO COOPERATE

The only thing you have to do is cooperate. Depending on the accident and the lawsuit, you may be required to meet with your appointed lawyer, ICBC or to attend the trial. Also, return any phone calls and reply to any e-mails sent to you.

Not cooperating could result in a breach of coverage, i.e. ICBC will no longer cover you and you will be on the hook for the entire cost of the claim.

For my case, I attended 2 meetings with my lawyer, an examination for discovery and replied to a bunch of e-mails from both my lawyer and ICBC. I never saw the other party again.

FINAL WORD

All lawsuits will settle, whether it is before or at trial. My appointed lawyer indicated around 95% of claims settle out of court. I was no exception. I did not have to pay for anything beside the deductible.

Being sued as a result of a car accident will not have a significant impact on your life, in most cases. I am not talking about injuries here, but about the lawsuit in itself.

The only time it could be problematic is if ICBC breaches your coverage for one reason or another, or if the damages exceed your third-party liability limits.