Motor vehicle accidents remain far too common in British Columbia. According to the most recent data published by the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC), there are nearly 300,000 traffic accidents reported in the province each year. Many of these accidents result in serious injuries or considerable vehicle damage.
Under British Columbia law, all drivers are required to obtain ICBC Basic Autoplan insurance. This coverage provides basic protection through Part 7 benefits and third-party liability coverage. But, by default, your Basic Autoplan does not cover damage to your own vehicle unless the other driver was at fault.
And, unfortunately, even when you do have coverage for ICBC auto repairs, getting your vehicle repaired through ICBC can be a challenging and frustrating process. It is crucial that you know the proper steps.
At Preszler Law, our Vancouver ICBC claims lawyers are dedicated advocates for auto accident victims throughout British Columbia. We want to make sure that you and your family have all the information that you need to protect your legal rights and financial interests.
Here, we offer an overview of important tips and tricks you should keep in mind when pursuing ICBC auto repairs. If you have any specific questions or you are currently involved in a dispute with ICBC, please do not hesitate to contact us for a free legal consultation.
As noted earlier, the Basic Autoplan by default only covers auto repairs to the extent that another person was at fault in causing the damage. For example, if another driver was 25% at fault in causing your accident, then ICBC will pay 25% of your repair costs.
If you were entirely at fault in causing the collision, then your Basic Autoplan won’t cover the damage to your own vehicle.
However, you can purchase optional coverage beyond the Basic Autoplan that protects you in cases where the Basic Autoplan does not. These include:
While you certainly need to get your vehicle repaired (or replaced) as quickly as possible, it is important to remember that medical needs always come first. If you suffered any type of injury in a traffic accident, no matter how minor you believe it to be, you should get professional medical attention. You need to protect your health and safety.
In addition, you may be entitled to medical benefits through ICBC.
While at the accident scene, it is in your best interests to obtain as much information as possible. This will be especially useful if there is a dispute related to who was at fault for your accident. To start, you should obtain contact information and vehicle information for all other drivers involved in the wreck.
Beyond that, you should also take photographs of the crash damage, take pictures of the accident scene and where the vehicles came to rest, get contact information for any eyewitnesses, and take contemporaneous notes on how the crash occurred.
ICBC has strict claims procedures that should be followed in order to obtain compensation. Auto accident victims have 30 days to report their crash to ICBC. If you fail to report your collision in time, it could prevent you from getting your vehicle repaired or replaced. You can report an ICBC claim online or by phone 24/7/365.
After you have reported your claim, you will receive an official claim number from an ICBC and an individual adjuster will be assigned to review your case.
You can also have a legal representative report the claim for you. We report all accidents to ICBC on behalf of our clients in order to ensure that there are no errors that could prejudice your case.
Reporting your car accident is just the first step in the process. You will also likely be required to submit some additional documentation to ICBC. Once again, all documentation must be submitted within a certain time frame. If you delay taking action, it could adversely affect your ability to get your vehicle repaired or to get a fair settlement offer.
You should submit a narrative description of your accident within 30 days and the proof of claim form within 90 days.
Ideally, your vehicle repair claim will be accepted, reviewed, and paid out in its entirety in relatively short order. Yet, although this does happen in some cases, the ICBC claims process is not always so smooth.
If you receive an adverse decision regarding your vehicle repair, you should take immediate action to protect your rights. The most common reasons for vehicle repair-related disputes are:
Attend an ICBC approved assessment or repair centre or an ICBC claim centre. You will need your ICBC claim number. ICBC will perform an assessment of your vehicle to determine what damages were caused by the accident and the cost of repairs.
The estimate allows ICBC to determine if your vehicle can be repaired or is a “write off”. If your vehicle can be repaired, then you can have the repairs performed at an ICBC approved repair shop. If your vehicle is a “write off” then ICBC will pay you the fair market value for your vehicle.
Your ICBC damage settlement should compensate you fairly for your vehicle repairs or vehicle replacement. What constitutes fair value? It depends on your specific situation. The damage should be completely reapired.
If there was pre-existing or unrelated damage, then that will not be paid for in the repair assessment.
You have the legal right to appeal an ICBC decision. How exactly you do this depends entirely on the specific status of your claim. There are two main issues that are at the source of most ICBC disputes:
If you have not been offered full and fair value for your vehicle repairs, you should get help from a skilled Vancouver car accident lawyer who has experience handling ICBC claims. Your lawyer will be able to review the specific nature of your case in order to determine what needs to be done to protect your rights.
If an ICBC claims adjusters improperly determines that you were at fault for all or part of your accident, it could reduce your ability to recover a fair settlement. At the very least, it could require you to pay a deductible that should otherwise be waived.
If you are not at fault for the accident, your deductible should be waived. A deductible is an amount that is payable to trigger an insurance claim. You choose the amount of your deductible when you purchase insurance. More on this below.
In cases in which fault is disputed, you have three main options:
If you are disputing an ICBC fault determination, it is highly recommended that you consult with a lawyer, even if you only pursue an initial free consultation to help you better understand the law.
Learn more about fault in British Columbia auto accidents:
If you are in a dispute over the valuation of your damages, you also have the right to file an appeal. In general, this starts with speaking directly to your insurance adjuster. If you cannot appeal to your adjuster directly to get a fair settlement, you are entitled to a review from an ICBC material damage manager.
Finally, you have the right to escalate your dispute outside of ICBC through arbitration. If you are considering escalating your vehicle damage claim, or you have questions about whether or not you are being offered a fair settlement, you should contact a British Columbia auto accident lawyer, because the arbitration process can be complicated.
It is not always economically sensible to repair a damaged vehicle. In some cases, the total cost of the repair will be higher than the actual fair market value of the car. In the ICBC claims process, this situation is typically referred to as a “write off” or a “total loss”.
After you make a claim to get your car repaired through ICBC, the first thing that the estimator will do is to determine whether or not your vehicle should be repaired at all. In theory, this is a relatively simply process. The estimator will:
When the repair costs more than the value of the vehicle, the vehicle will be a write off. You should be offered compensation for a vehicle replacement instead of repairs. For vehicle owners who have been involved in a serious crash, it is crucial that ICBC offers a proper, fair valuation of their car. In assessing the fair market value, ICBC will consider:
If you sign a write-off agreement, ICBC will take your damaged vehicle and sell it for parts. The sales price of the salvage is not relevant to your claim. Indeed, your damaged vehicle could be sold off before the write-off claim is even settled.
If you are disputing the replacement value of your vehicle, you will want to gather evidence to support your case. This can include collecting prices for similar vehicles from autotrader magazines or the “Black Book” or “Blue Book”. Try to find vehicles that are as similar to your vehicle as possible and submit those valuation estimates to your ICBC adjuster.
With limited exceptions, drivers are typically required to pay their deductible before ICBC will authorize vehicle repairs. You are always responsible for your deductible. Notably, you are still required to pay a deductible even if your vehicle is a write off.
However, if you were not at fault for the crash, then ICBC should waive or reimburse your deductible. As a general matter, deductibles are only waived when another driver is at fault for the accident and there is no dispute over that fact.
If there is a finding of fault against another driver at a later point in time, you could have your deductible payment reimbursed. Unfortunately, with reimbursements, ICBC can sometimes be frustratingly slow to process payments.
To dispute your deductible, you will generally need to dispute the assessment of fault.
When automobiles are involved in an accident, they lose “intangible value”. Even if the vehicle gets full repairs at a top auto body shop, the mere fact that it was previously in an accident is likely to permanently damage the resale value of the car.
On a basic level, this makes sense. Many used car buyers want a detailed history of a vehicle before they make a purchase. If there are two otherwise “equal” cars available, buyers will almost universally choose the car that was not involved in an accident.
In the ICBC claims process, this loss of value is referred to as accelerated depreciation. Simply put, accelerated depreciation is the long-term loss of market value that exists even after a vehicle has been fully repaired.
Unfortunately, ICBC has a general policy against authorizing compensation for accelerated depreciation. You can only recover for this type of loss in limited circumstances. Specifically, you must be able to present direct, non-speculative evidence that you actually sustained financial losses because you were in the process of selling the car or did sell the car for a lower value.
In our experience, you generally need to start a legal claim to recover compensation for accelerated depreciation.
We have extensive experience handling ICBC claims. At Preszler Law, our British Columbia auto accident lawyers advocate vigorously for the best interests of your clients. If you are being offered less than fair value for your damages, our legal team is here for you. We will:
With car accident claims, you do not always need to hire a lawyer. If you were only involved in a minor fender-bender and your claim is being handled fairly, a lawyer may not be able to provide any value. But if you were injured in an accident or you are not being treated fairly by ICBC, it is advisable to contact an experienced car accident lawyer to set up a free review of your case.
At Preszler Law, our British Columbia car accident lawyers have deep experience handling the full range of ICBC claims, including ICBC auto repairs. We can help you get the full and fair financial compensation that you rightfully deserve.
For a free, no-obligation consultation, please contact our legal team today. With consultation offices in Vancouver, Kelowna, Surrey, Richmond, Burnaby, Victoria, and Abbotsford, we are well-positioned to serve communities throughout British Columbia.