Last updated Sep. 15, 2018.
Car accidents occur every day in British Columbia. Many result in little more than minor property damage that is easily fixed by a repair shop. Some accident claims are more complex, however, as they involve potentially life-threatening bodily injuries to drivers or passengers.
One thing that is common to most B.C. motor vehicle accidents, however, is the role of the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC). ICBC is the crown corporation that provides basic insurance to all vehicles registered in British Columbia.
By law, drivers are required to contact ICBC following an accident involving an insured vehicle and notify it of the accident. But it is critical to understand exactly what this reporting obligation entails.
The first thing to keep in mind is that you do not have to deal with ICBC on your own. You always have the right to contact and work with a qualified Vancouver ICBC lawyer. Having a lawyer when dealing with ICBC is a good idea for several reasons, which will be explained in more detail below.
As with any insurance company, ICBC requires basic information about a car accident to process a claim. You should gather most of this information at the scene of the accident, assuming you do not require emergency medical attention.
The most basic information you will need from the other drivers involved include their licence plate numbers, driver’s licence numbers and their own insurance information. You will also need to provide this information about yourself to the other drivers.
You must be honest during this stage and at all times when you contact ICBC. Never provide false information to ICBC or the other parties involved in the accident. That is the quickest way to turn the ICBC process against you.
Along these same lines, always verify the information the other drivers provide you. Some people think they can escape liability by providing a phony name or contact information. That is why you should ask to see the licence and insurance information from each driver involved, to ensure they are providing you with accurate information.
You should also always write down or take a picture of the other drivers’ licence plate number.
There are some additional steps you can take at the accident scene that may prove helpful to your insurance claim, including:
You need to promptly contact ICBC and notify it anytime you are in a car accident, if only to preserve a potential claim for benefits. Generally, you should make notification within 24 hours.
When you first contact ICBC, you only need to provide basic information about the accident. This includes most of the information you should have gathered at the accident scene: the time and location of the incident, the licence plate numbers for all vehicles involved, driver’s licence information, witness information, and so on.
Although ICBC may ask you more detailed questions about what happened–e.g., who was at fault–you do not need to get into this information during the initial notification.
Notice is typically made by contacting ICBC’s Dial-a-Claim number. That number is:
Alternatively, you can report an ICBC claim online. All of these ICBC contact methods are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
After making a claim, you (or your lawyer) will be able to check its status on ICBC’s website.
Once you contact ICBC, the most important thing to understand is that anything you say can and will be used against you. ICBC is not a court. It does not have to advise you of your rights to speak with a lawyer. Nor is there any Constitutional protection against self-incrimination.
ICBC adjusters are often eager to quickly settle or deny a claim. To that end, they may ask to meet with you personally. At that meeting, they may pressure you to sign a written statement. Legally, you are not required to sign any such statement, and in many cases it’s a bad idea to do so. As long as you made a timely notification of the accident–and followed up by filing an accident benefit claim form–the adjuster cannot compel you to sign any further written statements.
You may be asking, What’s the big deal?Why? Although many of us often sign forms without even reading them, ICBC adjusters are not always there to make your life easier. Part of their job is to minimize ICBC’s potential exposure. At the end of the day, crown corporation or not, ICBC is an insurance company, and they make money by paying out as little as possible to policyholders and injured people.
Following an accident, even a relatively minor one, you are in a vulnerable position. You may be suffering physical or mental trauma. And if your car was seriously damaged, you are probably so concerned with getting your vehicle fixed that you are prepared to tell the ICBC adjuster whatever they want to hear just so they’ll pay your claim.
Once again, this is why it is a good idea to contact an ICBC lawyer before speaking with an adjuster. ICBC cannot deny or reduce your claim just because you decide to hire a lawyer. And having a lawyer deal with ICBC on your behalf will help level the playing field to help ensure you receive fair compensation for your vehicle damage and injuries.
Depending on the type of claim you file with ICBC, there are certain time limits you must be aware of and comply with. For Part 7 “no-fault” benefits you must provide a written proof of claim to ICBC within 30 days.
If you were injured in an accident caused by an unidentified motor vehicle on a B.C. public highway, you must notify ICBC and the police immediately and have 6 months to file a claim with ICBC’s hit-and-run fund.
There are separate deadlines for potential lawsuits arising from another driver’s negligence. Normally this deadline is two years from the date of the accident. However, if the claim is against a B.C. municipality–or their employees acting in an official capacity–you need to provide notice of the accident to the city or town within 2 months.
Deadlines are just that: non-negotiable dates by which you must take action. Once a deadline expires, your claim or lawsuit is barred regardless of the merits. This is yet another reason why hiring an ICBC lawyer at the start of the process is helpful. A qualified lawyer will keep an eye on the calendar for you, so that you will not miss an important filing deadline and doom your case or claim before it even starts.
An experienced ICBC lawyer can also assist you in properly valuing your claim. This is especially important when it comes to dealing with medical costs and injuries that go beyond simple repairs to your car.
An ICBC adjuster will often offer a quick settlement that is worth much less than your actual damages. The adjuster is counting on the fact that you do not realize the full extent of your own injuries.
Indeed, there are many cases where B.C. accident victims never realize the full value of their claim because they do not even bother to seek proper medical attention following an accident. Some people may wait days, even weeks or months, before going to a clinic or their regular doctor. Such delays send a clear message to ICBC: You were not seriously injured, so it doesn’t have to worry about paying for your medical expenses.
Unfortunately, there are many accident injuries that are not immediately obvious. If you suffered a traumatic brain injury (concussion) or a neck injury (whiplash), for instance, it may take a few days for symptoms to fully manifest. And even if you seek treatment once symptoms do appear, ICBC can argue that your injuries are unrelated to the accident because you waited and did not seek immediate medical attention.
When all is said and done, even a “simple” car accident can cost you thousands of dollars. But you are not in the best position to know this a day or two after the accident when you report the incident to ICBC. An adjuster will be quick to settle your claim–assuming they do not try to blame you for the accident–but in many cases, you may be able to recover significantly more damages in court or in an out-of-court settlement.
Hiring a qualified ICBC lawyer means working with someone who understands how to properly value a B.C. accident claim. At Preszler Law Firm, we understand that an accident is not always as simple as it first appears. Documenting the causes of the accident, as well as the full measure of a victim’s injuries, can require a significant investment of time and resources.
Some cases require the services of outside experts to properly explain any contested issues to a judge. And even for more straightforward cases, having a lawyer help you fully investigate the underlying causes of an accident–something ICBC often fails to do itself–can help ensure you are not railroaded by the process.
If you have been in a car accident, the last thing you probably want to deal with is ICBC adjusters and lawyers. That is perfectly understandable. But the reality is that once you have sustained personal or property damage, time is of the essence. There are filing deadlines that must be met, and ICBC will pressure you to resolve your claim as quickly as possible, irrespective of the merits.
You may be concerned that hiring a Vancouver ICBC lawyer will be an unnecessary burden and expense. But there is no risk to you: Preszler Law Firm represents ICBC claimants on a contingency basis. This means that you owe us nothing until we settle your claim with ICBC or win in court. We never demand upfront payments or retainer fees.
And our practice is 100-percent dedicated to accident victims like you–we never represent ICBC or any private insurance company.
Our concern is your future: Most people involved in accidents get better, but not everyone. And there is no clear way to know which camp you will fall into until you have attended for treatment and allowed yourself time to heal.
The safe option is to hire a lawyer early in the process to make sure your legal interests are protected now so you can avoid making a mistake in case you really need a lawyer in the future. Hiring a lawyer early in your claim will also not cost you more money because we do not bill you by the hour.
So before dealing with an ICBC adjuster or supervisor, call us first at 1-800-JUSTICE® for a free consultation. Remember, you have the right to speak to a lawyer before giving any formal statement to ICBC. Your claim cannot be denied for exercising that right. In fact, people with lawyers generally receive far more in compensation than those without lawyers. Contact us today if you have been in an accident and need advice before speaking with ICBC.