Hopefully you never need to know the information that is contained in this article because it is going to explain some of the things you should know if you are involved in a motor vehicle accident in BC.
If you are hurt in a motor vehicle accident, you may able to receive two types of compensation: (1) No Fault Accident Benefits and (2) Tort Damages.
I ACCIDENT BENEFITS
In BC the primary insurance carrier for motor vehicles is the Insurance Corporation of BC (“ICBC”). The no fault accident benefits arises from the fact that everyone who owns a vehicle in BC must buy basic insurance from ICBC. This basic insurance pays for accident benefits regardless of fault. So, even if you caused the accident, ICBC will pay you these no fault accident benefits, as long as you’ve met the conditions of this insurance.
Generally, the no fault accident benefits include wage loss up to a maximum of $300 per week and a portion of medical and rehabilitation benefits. You must apply for accident benefits within 90 days of the accident. If you’re injured, see your doctor as soon as possible, as your doctor is in the best position to prescribe treatment and ICBC will usually require a doctor’s referral for medical treatment or note saying you can’t work before paying for accident benefits.
Your first contact after a motor vehicle accident will probably be with an insurance adjuster for ICBC. The first thing that you need to understand when dealing with the adjuster is that he or she does not represent your interests alone and has an obligation to consider the interests of all parties involved in the accident. Additionally, ICBC has an obligation to the public to keep the costs of insurance as low as possible, so one of the adjuster’s objectives will be to pay you as little as possible. The adjuster’s job is not to explain your rights – getting the most compensation and benefits are your responsibility.
II TORT DAMAGES
Tort damages only apply if the accident wasn’t your fault (or only partly your fault). If that is the case, you are entitled to be compensated for things like “damages” for your pain and suffering, lost wages and out-of-pocket expenses from the at-fault driver. Such things as the extent of the injury, how it has affected your life, how it will continue to affect your life and the treatment that has been necessary are considered in determining the amount of compensation you should get for pain and suffering.
The no-fault benefits usually come not too long after the accident, whereas it can sometimes take years to get compensated for the tort damages.
Because ICBC is usually the insurer for the at fault driver as well, it will be responsible for paying for the tort damages. If ICBC is aware that the other driver is at fault for your accident, they will typically, at some point, make an offer to settle your tort claim, regardless of whether you have suggested settlement to them. In this case, ICBC is really wearing two hats: one, as your no fault accident benefits provider, and two, as the insurer for the at fault driver. You should not settle your claim until your injuries have resolved or your progress has at least plateaued.
If you can’t agree on the value of your claim, or who is responsible for the accident, a lawsuit and a trial may be necessary. A very important thing to note is that you must start a court action within two years of the accident, or else your tort claim will be time barred. This means that even if you are negotiating with ICBC and the two years have gone by, you lose your right to sue.
It is most advisable to see a lawyer about your injuries and possible compensation as soon as possible after the accident and before settling or starting a court action. A lawyer will know what information ICBC requires to settle your case and generally help you navigate this difficult process.