I have been a personal injury lawyer in British Columbia since 1995 and am always asked to give legal advice about ICBC offers of settlement. All too often injury claimants call me at best at the final hour or when it is too late to save a critical element of the car accident case. I certainly do not speak for every lawyer in BC when I reveal this list and it is based on my own experience as a personal injury lawyer- so here are the top 10 mistakes ICBC injury claimants, without lawyers, make when trying to settle a personal injury case:
1. Failure to get proper legal advice- most personal injury lawyers will agree to talk with a claimant for free initially and may take the case on percentage. Find out more about how to hire a personal injury lawyer;
2. Failure to provide the evidence required to prove a loss of opportunity to earn- Loss of income after a car accident injury can often be lost if the proper documentation is not maintained;
3. Making an offer to the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, ICBC, to settle the case without verifying if the offer is reasonable- The claimant may be making an offer that is too low without even knowing it. Understanding what can be claimed and what the case is worth before negotiation will help get the injury case settled for a reasonable sum of money;
4. Overvaluing future loss of earnings- If a claim is being made for future loss of earnings, the law in BC requires that the amount be reduced by 2.5%. Furthermore, defendants that are insured by ICBC only have to pay net loss of income and not gross loss of income to the injury claimant;
5. Not keeping receipts for out of pocket expenses- Expenses to attend the doctors, physiotherapist, massage therapist and the like can add up. If injury claimant fails to keep receipts they may not be able to prove this loss and it may weaken the case generally;
6. Not asking the ICBC adjuster to break down the insurance company offer to justify each amount being claimed;
7. Providing ICBC with irrelevant and embarrassing information- most injury claimants do not understand that signing a release of medical information with ICBC could mean that a lot of personal information is revealed that will divert ICBC’s attention from the relevant facts;
8. Trying to settle when the claimant has not yet returned to work- This is a real “no-no” especially if the settlement amount assumes that the claimant will return to work at the time of settlement;
9. Making a “final offer” before talking to a personal injury lawyer- The claimant may end up getting stuck on a figure that is either unrealistically high or low for the case and it may affect negotiations when, and if, the claimant is able to get a lawyer; and
10. Accepting an ICBC offer and thinking that it can be re-opened later- In most cases when you settle your injury case with ICBC you must sign a release of all claims and you cannot claim later-read my article about settling without a personal injury lawyer.
Take what you will from this list and call me if you think you need my help. Posted by Personal injury lawyer Mr. Renn A. Holness, B.A. LL.B. member of the Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia.