One of the cardinal rules when filing an ICBC claim is to never lie or attempt to mislead an adjuster. If you are uncertain as to the facts regarding your car accident or a related insurance claim, it is better to consult with an experienced Vancouver personal injury lawyer before talking to ICBC.
Remember, once you make a statement to ICBC, their adjusters can and will conduct a full investigation. If they have reason to believe you lied to them, it may cost you dearly.
Consider the recent decision of the B.C. Supreme Court in Winterbottom v. Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, which offers a helpful illustration of what we are talking about. This case actually involves a stolen vehicle rather than an accident, but the principles regarding what to expect when dealing with ICBC–and the importance of not lying to ICBC–are the same.
The plaintiff in this case owned a truck insured by ICBC. One evening in 2011, he was at a pub in the Lower Mainland engaged in “heavy drinking” with a couple of friends. According to the plaintiff, he had “locked the truck using his key fob,” and then put his keys in his pocket before entering the pub.
One of the friends gave the plaintiff a ride home. The next day, the plaintiff returned to the pub to retrieve his truck, but the truck was not there. The plaintiff said he then went to an RCMP detachment across the street to report the vehicle missing. He subsequently filed a theft claim with ICBC. According to his claim report, the plaintiff said his truck “operated perfect” and had not had any “recent repairs.”
An ICBC adjuster contacted the plaintiff. She asked for his “cell phone records” and spare key to the truck. (The plaintiff said he lost the original keys.) The plaintiff said he complied with these requests. Later, the adjuster informed him the plaintiff his truck had been found “destroyed” at a creek located about 15 minutes east of the pub.
After completing its investigation, ICBC denied the plaintiff’s claim arising from the loss of the truck. ICBC asserted the plaintiff could not actually prove the truck had been stolen–the insurer believed he destroyed his own vehicle intentionally to collect the insurance money. The insurer also accused the plaintiff of lying to ICBC, pointing to a number of “wilfully false statements, akin to fraud, with respect to the claim,” made by the plaintiff.
The plaintiff filed suit in Supreme Court, demanding ICBC honour his claim. Following a trial before Justice Murray B. Blok of New Westminster, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s claim and entered judgment for ICBC. After hearing all of the evidence, including numerous witness accounts, Justice Blok essentially broke the case down as follows:
Contrary to the plaintiff’s statements regarding the “perfect” condition of his truck, an auto mechanic who testified as an expert witness found “there were serious or potentially serious mechanical problems with the truck.”
Notably, there was “virtually no oil in the engine” when the destroyed truck was found. This could not be attributed to the fire that destroyed the truck, the expert said, as engine oil is designed to withstand the high temperatures of a fire.
While Justice Blok said he could not conclude from this evidence that the plaintiff “must have known” his truck had problems, as ICBC claimed, it was possible he “may have known” about them.
There was a significant amount of inconsistency in the stories offered by the plaintiff and his friends as to how he got home on the night of the alleged theft. The plaintiff explained his lack of memory was due to his “extreme drunkenness.”
However, ICBC introduced cell phone records that indicated there were at least half a dozen calls made between the plaintiff and his friend “during the time they had said both of them were located” at the pub.
More importantly, evidence gathered from the cell towers contradicted the plaintiff’s account of his “location at various points that night and the next morning.” Ultimately, Justice Blok said he was convinced the plaintiff “was not where he said he was that night.”
Justice Blok agreed with ICBC that the plaintiff forfeited his right to insurance coverage based on three “wilfully false statements” made in connection with his claim – his location on the night of the alleged theft, which was illustrated by the cell phone records; his account of how he got home that night; and his whereabouts the following morning, which were again disproven by the cell records.
The Court did not accept ICBC’s alternate theory of what might have happened, which was that the plaintiff destroyed the truck because he had an outstanding $10,000 line of credit secured by the vehicle.
Justice Blok noted there was no evidence the plaintiff had “any difficulty” making his debt payments, as he was gainfully employed at the time. The “mere fact” of the line of the credit therefore did not provide “any special or particular incentive for him to cause the loss of the Truck.”
It is important to remember that when you file an ICBC claim, the adjuster is not always on your side. ICBC’s employees are charged with minimizing the Crown Corporation’s exposure to potential liability. That means looking for justifiable reasons to deny a claim. That job is often made easier by claimants who offer false, misleading, or simply confused accounts of what happened.
That is why you always need to think before you speak to ICBC. Of course, you are required to report an accident or theft promptly, but any additional information you give may be used against you. An ICBC adjuster is under no obligation to advise you of your rights.
Someone who can advise you is a qualified Vancouver ICBC claims lawyer. Contact the Preszler Law Firm today to schedule a free consultation with a member of our legal team to discuss your accident- or theft-related claim and how we can best help you.