Dealing with Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) after your get injured in a motor vehicle accident can be tricky. It is common for ICBC to put forth an offer to settle your claim on a full and final basis in exchange for settlement funds instead of keeping your claim open. These offers are a normal part of the process, but they can be confusing for an unrepresented car accident victim, as it is difficult to know if an offer is sufficient compensation for your claim.
There are two common mistakes in the settlement process that can cause issues for an injured accident victim who fails to consult with an ICBC lawyer in Surrey, Langley and surrounding BC.
1. Settling Too Early
The most common mistake when dealing with ICBC is accepting a settlement too early, which does not provide sufficient funds for all aspects of your claim and your needs going forward. The compensation may be for your future medical expenses, lost income or your pain and suffering from the accident. In the first few months or years after an accident, your condition may change with treatment and time. It is often unclear at the early stages of the process what you may be entitled to because it is too early for medical professionals to give an accurate prognosis.
Our ICBC lawyers serving Surrey and Langley at Spraggs & Co. have experience reviewing the value of these claims and can provide advice on when to accept an offer, when to provide additional information to substantiate a claim to increase an offer, or when it is necessary to proceed to litigation. If you accept an offer from ICBC to settle your claim, you will likely be required to sign a full and final release extinguishing all rights to your claim going forward. This means that if your condition worsens in the future or if you lose your job because of an injury, you will have no legal recourse against ICBC.
This situation sadly occurred in Townsend v. Hull and ICBC. The plaintiff was injured in a single motor vehicle accident caused by an impaired driver when she was just 18 years old. She settled her claim on her 19th birthday, without any assistance from counsel for $10,000 less 30 percent for contributing to the accident by failing to wear her seatbelt. The plaintiff’s condition had not healed and her doctor had expressed some concerns about the recovery time. She continued to have a soft tissue injury, specifically troubling her upper and mid-thoracic spine.
The plaintiff later attempted to bring a claim against ICBC and sought to have the settlement set aside on the basis that it was substantially unfair given the injuries from the accident. The judge ruled against the plaintiff finding that the settlement was final and precluded her from setting it aside and pursuing her claim. In fact, recovery for legal costs were made available to ICBC, which the plaintiff would need to pay.
2. Failing to Accept a Reasonable Offer
Failing to accept a reasonable offer to settle can also be a mistake. If an insurer makes a reasonable offer in advance of a trial, which the plaintiff fails to accept and is then awarded less in court, not only does the plaintiff receive the lesser amount, but he or she may also have to pay some of the costs of the other side.
In Wright v. Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada, the plaintiff had brought a claim for income related benefits against his insurer. When those benefits were denied the plaintiff represented himself in a claim against the insurer. On the day of the trial, he declined an offer to settle the matter that was greater than what he received at trial. The judge ordered him to pay double costs to the defendant and refused to award the plaintiff any costs, despite his success in defending the counterclaim.
When making an important financial decision, you should always consult with a trusted and knowledgeable ICBC lawyer for advice about how much is appropriate under the circumstances. When settling an ICBC claim, you should specifically seek advice from a trusted personal injury legal professional. At Spraggs & Co., an injury lawyer serving Surrey or Langley can negotiate a fair ICBC settlement for you.
ICBC forms, processes and offers can be confusing. At Spraggs & Co. our personal injury lawyers have dealt with many ICBC cases and can use this insight to advise you about when an offer is reasonable. We have over 35 years of experience assisting injured accident victims.
Contact us today at 1-866-939-3339 to set up a free, no obligation consultation.