Should I contact ICBC?
Once ICBC has opened a file on you and started an investigation of the matter, you might be tempted to stay in direct contact with them in order to get updates on your case. However, you should not, under any circumstances whatsoever, contact ICBC once you have retained a personal injury lawyer.
First, contacting ICBC could seriously harm your case. With even one seemingly harmless statement or question, you can undermine your own personal injury claim.
Second, you are now represented by a personal injury lawyer and it is unethical for ICBC to have any personal contact with you directly, regardless of the reason why they are contacting you.
Should I contact my insurance company?
Sometimes, it may be appropriate for you to come into direct contact with your own insurance company. This is especially true if you have health insurance, medical payments insurance, or automobile uninsured or underinsured driver coverage. Nevertheless, it’s wise to ask your personal injury lawyer beforehand whether or not you should contact the insurance company. Make sure you always get your lawyer’s approval first before you do anything.
When should I settle?
Settlement of your personal injury claim is appropriate only after you’ve recovered from your injury, or at least when you’re close to making a full recovery. After the investigation and research phases have concluded, your Vancouver personal injury lawyer will then keep a close eye on your recovery from the injury. Hopefully, you will be able to recover from your injury completely and soon enough so that it will become appropriate to try settling your claim.
What Steps You and Your ICBC / Personal Injury Lawyer Will Take to Conclude Your Case
You and your personal injury lawyer will decide upon a settlement range, after which your lawyer will contact Insurance Corporation of British Columbia by sending a letter of demand. A letter of demand is a summary of the pertinent facts of your claim and contains in it a formal request to start discussions for settlement. Upon receiving the letter of demand, the ICBC claims adjuster who has been assigned to your case will consult with the appropriate supervisors or managers and get the authority to settle. Once the claims adjuster has the final authority, he or she will contact your British Columbia personal injury lawyer, and negotiations will begin.
Sometimes, negotiations are done through telephone conferences, office conferences, and email or mail correspondences. How long these negotiations take depends upon a number of different factors, such as what kind of insurance company your lawyer is dealing with and how busy or available the insurance claims adjuster is, etc.
In the majority of cases, personal injury claims are settled out of court so that a trial does not have to take place. A small number of cases do not settle and so they have to proceed all the way through trial.
ICBC will dispute your claim if your injury is the fault of someone else besides its insured. That other person may be you or someone else who was involved in the accident.
Another instance where ICBC will dispute your claim is if it believes one of the following: (1) you are not injured, or (2) even if you are injured, it is not as serious as you claim it is. To combat this, you and your lawyer will need to present documented evidence (such as medical records and medical-legal reports, employment information and evidence of expenses arising out of your injury) and other evidence (such as testimony of friends and co-workers) so you can establish credibility and prove that your injury exists.
ICBC will dispute your personal injury claim is if you or one of your witnesses lied, exaggerated, or fabricated information regarding the nature and degree of your injury or the accident.
Your lawyer will keep in contact with you to help you prepare for your examination for discovery and other steps in the action.
While litigation is taking place you should be doing at least the following:
- Keep in contact with your ICBC lawyer so that you are up-to-date on what is going on with your case. Additionally, always respond to your lawyer’s letter or phone calls as promptly as possible.
- Let your lawyer know if any of your contact information, including address or phone number, has changed.
- Inform your lawyer of any changes regarding your injury (such as recovery or a new diagnosis) or your personal life (such as a marriage).
- Immediately after your lawyer requests a document, prepare and obtain it.
- Track all of your medical bills as well as lost income and let your lawyer know what expenses you incur.
When will the trial begin (if ICBC does not settle)? Unfortunately, there is no set rule that determines when your trial takes place, because there are so many factors that affect the process:
- How many cases are awaiting trial?
- How many judges are available to preside over trials?
- How busy the lawyers involved in the case are and how many other pending trials they have.
- How many days is the trial going to be?
Your lawyer will be able to give you a rough estimation when your case will reach trial; it can take less than a year after filing, or it can take several years. Generally, it is desirable to have the trial set far enough in the future so that you have a good idea how you will recover from your injuries. However, there may be good reasons to have a quicker trial. There is no hard and fast rule.
One of the most important components of your trial is your testimony. If you are well-prepared, honest and your testimony is well-received by the judge or jury, it will help your case immensely.
You will have already been questioned by the defense lawyer before trial. It is extremely important that your answers are consistent throughout your case. Inconsistency could be used by the defense to attack your credibility.
In court, professionalism is key. You should act and speak appropriately. Treat everyone with respect: the judge, court personnel, and the opposing lawyer.
While testifying at trial, the most important thing is honesty. Judges or juries will not rule in favor of a plaintiff they do not believe.
How early beforehand will I know about the trial?
You will be informed of the upcoming trial well ahead of time. A British Columbia personal injury lawyer will be able to explain this process to you more thoroughly.
Should I provide the adjuster a medical records authorization?
For an adjuster to ask for you to sign a medical authorization form may seem like an innocent, and maybe even expected, step in the personal injury claim process. Signing a medical authorization form, however, can mean enabling the insurance company to pry in a way that can hurt your case. Your lawyer will be able to educate you as to what you should and should not do when it comes to your case, as even the most innocuous-seeming actions on the part of the insurance adjuster can affect your ability to get a fair settlement.
The problem with medical authorization forms is that they are sweeping in scope. Essentially, they can enable insurance adjusters to delve quite deeply into your complete medical history, including into medical conditions and matters that could be unrelated to the ones relevant to your personal injury claim. Claimants should never sign potentially damaging medical release forms without discussing the possible consequences with a qualified ICBC / personal injury lawyer.
Bruce Lemer has acted in ICBC claims for people with serious orthopedic injuries, spinal cord injuries and paralysis, brain injuries, psychological injuries, whiplash and other serious personal injuries since 1982. He represents people in Vancouver, North Vancouver, West Vancouver, Surrey, Burnaby, Richmond, Delta, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and throughout Greater Vancouver and British Columbia.