The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) will call after you’ve reported a motor vehicle accident. They may ask for additional information, request that you sign a medical release form, or notify you of a pending offer. It is important to understand that you have legal rights and options. Their first offer is not necessarily their last.
It is in their best interest to avoid the expense of trial, so they are likely to make up to four offers before defending their decision in court. Sometimes you shouldn’t accept the ICBC’s fourth offer, let alone the first. Contact our personal injury law firm in Vancouver for free advice and assistance in negotiating with them.
Here are several reasons you may NOT want to accept ICBC’s first offer:
ICBC might try to pressure you into accepting a “quick and fair resolution,” without any further explanation. We’ve heard of them giving injured victims as little as 24 hours to accept or decline an offer, knowing full well it can be difficult to get the help of a lawyer in such a short window. At Preszler Law, we do respond to all inquiries within 24 hours, and the first thing we’ll do after you call us– is give them a call, letting them know they’ve got to put a hold on their deadline until we’ve looked over the claim.
Since changes made in April 2019, the ICBC began taking a shortcut with a so-called “meat chart”– a one-to-five scale to determine how much they’ll offer– one being the most minor and five being the most severe. There is no consideration of how the injuries affect the individual’s daily life or occupation. Pain and suffering damages are capped for “minor” injuries. According to the Vancouver Sun, ICBC doesn’t inquire with patients about their actual conditions, how much they’re seeking, or why they deserve it– and yet they’ve settled nearly 60 percent of those claims.
They know that you will want to settle as quickly as possible to pay your bills and cover living expenses while you’re unable to work. However, you have every right to request a breakdown of how they arrived at their total. Variable factors may include the nature and duration of your injuries, employment abilities following the accident, out-of-pocket expenses, and an allowance for pain and suffering. The ICBC may or may not respond to your inquiry, but it’s worth pursuing to ensure the compensation is just.
The ICBC is complex. At the end of the day, they are a business looking to profit and keep costs down. In recent years, the ICBC has come under scrutiny for their inability to remain solvent. From April 1 to December 31, 2018, they posted a net loss of $860 million, prompting a series of reforms. In addition, the government has been accused of looting the ICBC for roadway safety projects, adding to the pressure to increase revenues. Rate hikes are one of the solutions proposed, but convincing injured parties to settle quickly for a lesser value is yet another strategy.
How does the ICBC know how much your injuries will cost to treat if the duration of treatment is unknown? Many injuries persist longer than what was initially forecast. Once they have settled your claim, you will sign a release preventing you from recovering additional compensation. Therefore, injury claims should never be settled before you and your doctor are confident in your diagnosis, current condition, and future prognosis.
Here’s one example of how the ICBC operates. A client received an initial offer of $4,000. The second offer was for $6,000. The “third and final” offer was for $7,500. After getting Vancouver ICBC lawyers involved, the client was given a fourth offer of $12,500. The ICBC knows lawyers don’t mess around, but they still try to push their luck. Through the mediation process, they offered $30,000 but ultimately settled for $45,000.
Not every offer is worth $45,000– some are worth less, and some are worth more. A lawyer can help amass evidence and testimony to support maximum claim value and knows (through experience) when to push and when to accept. In our experience, the ICBC has increased the offer every time a lawyer has been retained– often by double or even triple the amount.
Preszler Law May Be Able To Help.
If ICBC is unable to explain their decision in greater detail, it may be time to retain counsel. We are an ICBC law firm with years of experience helping Vancouver residents maximize their settlements. It costs nothing upfront to consult with us. The earlier you have a legal advocate on your side, the better.