August 30, 2010- Did you know that ICBC requires their lawyers to enter into a written agreement which prevents the lawyer from taking car accident cases against ICBC that allege bad faith or seek a money award to punish bad behaviour? Even the top or what some call the best personal injury lawyers in British Columbia cannot take on your case against ICBC if you are claiming bad faith. Well what is bad faith anyway?
Bad faith is essentially when an insurance company, like ICBC, for no good reason, refuses to pay you benefits for which you are entitled. Here are some examples of when ICBC could be acting in bad faith: failing to pay money owing pursuant to the Insurance (Vehicle) Act; failing to respond to written requests with any reasonable explanation for the refusal to pay; failing to settle a third party claim; vetoing treatment proposed by the injury claimant without reason; failing to be objective;and failing to thoroughly investigate the injury claim.
If bad faith against ICBC is found, the injury claimant can claim aggravated and punitive damages. As a matter of basic principle, punitive damages is a money award intended to punish a defendant, like ICBC, for egregious conduct where the combined effect of the other money awards is insufficiently punitive. Cory J. in Hill v. Church of Scientology of Toronto (1995), 126 D.L.R. (4th) 129 (S.C.C.) expressed the basic law as follows, at 185-6:
“Punitive damages may be awarded in situations where the defendant’s misconduct is so malicious, oppressive and high-handed that it offends the court’s sense of decency. Punitive damages bear no relation to what the plaintiff should receive by way of compensation. Their aim is not to compensate the plaintiff, but rather to punish the defendant. It is the means by which the jury or judge expresses its outrage at the egregious conduct of the defendant. They are in the nature of a fine which is meant to act as a deterrent to the defendant and to others from acting in this manner.”
With respect to aggravated damages as stated in Vorvis v. Insurance Corporoation of British Columbia(1989), 58 D.L.R. (4th) 193 (S.C.C.) aggravated damages constitute an augmentation of money for pain and suffering and, as such, are compensatory in nature. Such a money award to an ICBC injury claimant is measured by intangible elements such as pain, grief, wounded pride, damaged self-confidence or self-esteem, or loss of faith in others. As has been oft noted, it is not the damages that are aggravated but the injury as a result of the defendant’s high-handed conduct.
If you think you may have a case against ICBC for bad faith make sure you ask any lawyer you interview whether they or their law firm works for ICBC on other cases and whether they have signed a written agreement which prevents them from taking cases against ICBC that allege bad faith. I can assure you that none of the lawyers at Holness Law Group work for ICBC. Posted by Mr.Renn A. Holness
Issue: Should lawyers that work for ICBC have to tell you that before they agree to take your ICBC personal injury claim?