As a Vancouver car accident lawyer assisting people with ICBC claims since 1995 I have three important tips for ICBC claimants and for those seeking legal advice after a car accident:
1. ICBC Claims Lawyer- Specialization
Help with free ICBC advice is as easy as making a phone call. Most lawyers with experience in ICBC claims will agree to provide a free initial consultation. Lawyers in BC are allowed to provide legal advice on a limited retainer as well as by way of percentage. More often than not you’ll find that the lawyer will agree to take on the case with no up front fees.
A lawyer must be licensed to practice in BC to be an “ICBC Claims Lawyer”, but there is no other formal training in BC for this informal designation. So claimants make sure you ask the lawyer about his or her work experience and familiarity with ICBC claims. British Columbia has a unique universal motor vehicle insurance scheme that is unlike any other in the world so get a British Columbia lawyer to prosecute your claim.
2. First Steps in the ICBC Claim – Experience
You are not required to give ICBC a signed statement after a car accident. As an insured you must however provide ICBC with a written statement within thirty days of the accident. Do not sign a statement for ICBC until you understand your legal rights and obligations.
Start a day book or diary about events following the accident. Note events that could be forgotten later. Taking photographs, video, audiotape and the like can make a difference later in your claim if there is doubt about the position of the vehicles, the location of the accident, or the acute nature of your injury.
3. Free ICBC Claim Advice- Legal Fees
Once you have had an initial free legal consultation you must decide whether to hire a legal advocate assist for the remainder of your claim. As a lawyer I will only represent a person for an ICBC claim if: (a) they need a lawyer; and (b) I can get them more money in their pocket than not having a lawyer. This is sometimes difficult to assess but it is important to have a lawyer if there are competing legal interests or if the injury has not resolved fully in the first 30 to 60 days. There is no hard and fast rule so I suggest you discuss these issues with a lawyer during a free consultation.
There is also no rule about when you absolutely need a lawyer. Therefore, you or a loved one must get proactive and start looking into lawyers early after your accident. Legal fees are unlikely to be much different from lawyer to lawyer as lawyers are strictly regulated by the Law Society of BC. Lawyers are not going to charge more than 331/3% for a car accident case and most experienced personal injury lawyers I spoken with charge anywhere from 25-331/3% depending on the issues involved in a case.
It is important to understand that lawyers are not obligated to take on your case. After an initial consultation the lawyer is free to refuse to take on your case and may in fact advise that you have a bad case or one that is destined to fail. It is much better to find out you have a bad case before spending thousands of dollars on an ICBC claim.
In closing I encourage all ICBC claimants to inform themselves of their legal rights/obligations and learn more about making an ICBC claim by watching our short video about key mistakes made by ICBC claimants:
Posted by ICBC Claims lawyer Mr. Renn A. Holness, B.A. LL.B.