16 Jan Can I Afford a Lawyer? This and 8 Other Common ICBC Claim Questions Answered
If you’ve recently been in a car accident, are going through the claims process with ICBC, someone may have told you to get a lawyer to help you maximize your claim settlement. This is a stressful time with many questions. Below, I want to answer the questions we receive most commonly.
1. Can I Afford a Lawyer?
Undoubtedly, there is a misconception amongst the public that all lawyers charge unruly hourly rates, which most people cannot afford. In reality, personal injury lawyers in British Columbia work on contingency fee agreements. This means that when you work with a lawyer, they will defer taking payment until the end of the claim. The lawyer will then receive a legal fee payment based on a percentage of the total claim paid by ICBC. Though this percentage charge varies between lawyers, the limit within British Columbia is 33.3%. I suggest avoiding lawyers that charge at or near the maximum as most often, you will over pay the lawyer for his/her service. The good news is that with a contingency fee agreement, there are no upfront costs to get the legal representation you will need.
2. Do I need a Lawyer to Receive Fair Compensation?
If you suffer more than a minor short-lived injury and are not at fault for the accident, hiring a lawyer almost always means you will receive more in your pocket at the end of the claim. The reason being, ICBC almost always “lowballs” self-represented claimants trying to get the claimant to settle early for low dollars.
3. Will There Be A Trial?
The short answer: Maybe but not likely.
The long answer: The vast majority of claims are settled long before a trial is necessary. Also, the decision to go to trial, if need be, is one you will make with your lawyer. You are the person ultimately deciding if the final offer from ICBC is acceptable to you.
4. What’s a Fair Amount For a Claim?
It’s tempting to take ICBC’s initial offer, because of the common belief that ICBC has every claimant’s best interest at heart. There is no set “fair” amount, largely because it is hard to gauge the long term effects of a collision, both physically and mentally. Though pain may have subsided, there may be lingering psychological issues which may never fully go away. Any reputable lawyer should have a sense of how much your claim is worth (within a range), and can advise you on the best path to take / how much compensation is fair.
5. Can I Still Get Fair Compensation if I am At Fault for the Accident?
If you are at fault for the accident, you are not entitled to any compensation for your injuries except some wage benefits and medical expense coverage through Part VII Regulations. You don’t need a lawyer and can handle that claim directly with the ICBC adjuster.
6. When Should I Hire a Lawyer?
If you are leaning towards hiring a lawyer at some point in your claim, hire the lawyer sooner than later. The fee charged by the lawyer does not go down with the passage of time so waiting does not save money. In fact, waiting may cost you money as ICBC will have access to you in order to minimize your claim. You may go down a path that lowers the value of the claim. You may make admissions to ICBC that damage your claim. A lawyer will stickhandle the claim in the right direction and limit ICBC contact with you.
7. When Should I First See a Doctor?
It is critical you see a doctor within one or two days of the accident even if it is a walk-in clinic. Not only could you have a significant injury needing immediate medical help but also, you need to document the injuries for ICBC’s benefit. If you wait to see a doctor ICBC will conclude the injuries are minor or non-existent even if you are the type of person that suffers without medical intervention.
8. How Often Should I See My Doctor?
I suggest seeing the doctor every few weeks early on after the injury and then every month or two. The main reasons are you are getting optimized care to help with your recovery and you are “documenting your injuries”. Non-attendance at your doctor will be used against you by ICBC to lower the value of the claim.
9. What Should I do if ICBC Refuses to Pay for Recommended Care?
Don’t let ICBC decide the amount of treatment you need. Let your doctor decide it. If you stop treatment, ICBC will turn around and say you are recovered because you are not going for treatment. Try to find a way to pay for the treatment including asking the treatment provider to get paid at the end of the claim.
Written by Wes Mussio of Mussio Goodman Law Group