One of the risks in filing an ICBC claim is that the corporation may initially pay for damages to your vehicle following a car accident, only to turn around and demand repayment. This can happen when an ICBC adjuster decides your damages were unrelated to the accident in question, you exaggerated or falsified your claim, or there is reason to believe you were responsible for the accident itself. If you find yourself in a situation in which ICBC is demanding repayment, you should seek advice from a qualified Vancouver personal injury lawyer right away.
To give an example of a scenario in which ICBC can seek repayment of insurance benefits, here is a recent decision by the B.C. Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT), which handles small claims in the province. The applicant in this case, Rahimi v. Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, is a driver who has an insurance policy with ICBC.
On October 3, 2015, the applicant was driving his car. Another driver rear-ended him. The applicant notified ICBC of the accident. The insurer investigated the accident and determined the other driver was liable.
Given the type of accident, ICBC awarded benefits to the applicant through its “express” process. This meant the applicant could get his vehicle repaired without first bringing the car to ICBC for an initial assessment. Before the applicant went to the repair shop, however, he got into a second accident when he inadvertently backed his car into a pole. This collision let a “vertical dent” in the rear bumper of the car.
The applicant did not take his car in for repairs until November 24, 2015, several weeks after the October 3 accident. According to the applicant, he was concerned there might be an extra cost to him for the pole accident. But he did not inform the repair shop (or ICBC) about the pole accident. A few days later, the mechanic told the applicant that ICBC agreed to pay for all of the repairs without question. The applicant said he interpreted the mechanic’s statements to mean he did not need to file an additional claim with ICBC for the pole accident.
Sometime after the mechanic completed the repairs to the applicant’s vehicle, however, ICBC said it learned there was damage unrelated to the October 3 accident, i.e. the bumper dented in the pole accident. In January 2016, an ICBC adjuster contacted the applicant. The applicant confirmed that he never disclosed the pole accident to the mechanic. The adjuster also claimed the applicant said “that his vehicle was not involved in any accidents or sustained any damage after the collision.”
A few months later, in May 2016, another ICBC adjuster spoke with the applicant. At this point, ICBC demanded repayment of $3,278.54, which represented the costs of repairing the bumper on the applicant’s car. During this second conversation, ICBC said the applicant “said he did not know how the rear left bumper was damaged and that he could not recall any subsequent incidents after the collision.” Yet during a third conversation in October 2016, the applicant apparently told an ICBC manager that “he had told the mechanic about the pole accident and had asked them to either fix it as a favour to him or to bill him separately.” ICBC maintains the applicant never notified it of the pole accident until he filed a petition challenging the repayment demand before the CRT.
Shelley Lopez of the CRT heard the applicant’s claim, as well as ICBC’s counterclaim for repayment of the $3,278.54. In keeping with the CRT’s less formal approach to resolving disputes, Lopez decided the case based on the documentary evidence submitted by the parties. She did not conduct an oral hearing.
Lopez found the “weight of the evidence” supported ICBC’s position. That is to say, the applicant “did not disclose the pole accident when he ought to have done so.” Although Lopez did not go so far as to say the applicant intentionally defrauded ICBC, he nevertheless “deprived ICBC of the ability to separate out the cost of any necessary collision repairs.”
Lopez’s ruling largely rested on ICBC’s records of its employees’ telephone conversations with the applicant, as well as photographs taken of the applicant’s vehicle right after the October 3 accident. Those pictures, taken by the other driver involved in the rear-end collision, showed no damage to the rear bumper. Indeed, Lopez said the pictures indicated no damage of any kind to the applicant’s car. In contrast, the applicant only offered an “undated photo” showing an “apparent dent and mark” on the rear bumper, which Lopez concluded was clearly taken after the second, unreported accident.
Given the evidence, Lopez said ICBC had a “valid claim for repayment of the $3,278.54, which covered not just the mechanic’s charges to fix the bumper, but also the applicant’s car rental fees while awaiting completing of the repairs. Lopez also awarded ICBC $87.95 in prejudgment interest and $225 in tribunal-related fees. The applicant is entitled to file objections to the CRT’s decision with the Provincial Court.
As this case demonstrates, ICBC will not hesitate to investigate an accident even after it has paid for repairs. Any inconsistencies in an accident victim’s statements may be used to justify a demand for repayment. This is why it is essential to always be truthful when speaking with ICBC adjusters and managers. It is also critical to keep detailed records related to your accident, including taking–and properly dating–your own pictures of any damage to your vehicle.
If you have questions or concerns about your rights under your auto insurance policy, you should contact a qualified Vancouver ICBC claims lawyer as soon as possible. Contact the Preszler Law Firm today to schedule a free consultation with a member of our legal team to discuss your accident and insurance claim and how we can best help you.