Motor Vehicle Accidents in British Columbia
Being involved in a motor vehicle accident can be very scary. In addition to being scared, you are probably going to have no idea what to do next. This article is a guideline to things you should do and your rights after an accident.
1. If you or anyone in the vehicle is injured, you need to receive medical attention. This is your number one priority, not only on the day of the accident, but also on an ongoing basis. Go see your doctor regularly and report your symptoms to him or her. Take the time to get better; going back to work or to your regular activities too early can prolong your recovery.
2. Get names and contact information for all of the drivers and witnesses involved in the accident. Call the police and request a copy of the police motor vehicle accident report. If you are medically well enough to do so, make notes about the accident scene, take pictures and write down how the accident occurred.
3. It is a requirement of your ICBC insurance policy that you report any accident to ICBC, which you can do by calling 1-800-910-4222.
4. Everyone injured in a motor vehicle accident in BC can claim damages for injuries (provided that person is not “at fault” for the accident, more on this in #5 below). This includes pedestrians, cyclists, passengers and children.
5. If you were the one that caused the accident, that means you are “at fault.” Even though you can’t claim damages for any injuries you’ve sustained, you are entitled to No Fault Accident Benefits through your ICBC insurance. In order to be entitled to receive these benefits, you must give notice of the accident by calling the number in #3 above and completing an Accident Benefits Application (ICBC should give you the form) within 90 days of the accident. The No-Fault Accident Benefits entitle you to the following benefits:
a. Medical: ICBC will partially pay for treatments like physiotherapy and chiropractic care, but you will have to pay the rest (sometimes referred to as the “user fee”). Also, you should receive payments for other medical benefits like prescription drugs, crutches or other medical equipment;
b. Wage Loss: you will be entitled to receive $300 per month or 75% of your average weekly earnings, which ever is less;
c. There are also death and survivor benefits, which would cover things like funeral costs and replacement of income if the main wage earner in the household is killed in an accident.
6. ICBC might ask you to sign an authorization allowing it to obtain your medical records. Don’t sign it! You can gather your own medical documentation and provide it to ICBC; there is no need for ICBC to have access to your entire medical history.
7. ICBC might say that you are “at fault” for the accident. If you disagree with ICBC’s assessment of fault in the accident, you can ask them to reconsider by providing them with any evidence that wasn’t considered initially, like witness statements or pictures. If ICBC still says you are at fault, you can start a court action to have the court decide.
8. If at any time you are not sure what to do, you can speak with a lawyer about the accident. In many personal injury cases, lawyers are prepared to act for you on a “contingency fee” basis, which means that they only get paid when the claim settles and if nothing is recovered, the lawyer does not get paid. There are advantages and disadvantages to the contingency fee arrangement: you don’t have to pay anything up front or while your case progresses, but the contingency fee will often end up being more than if you paid the lawyer by his or her hourly rate. The reason that the contingency fee might be higher in the end is because the lawyer is taking a risk in acting for you with the possibility of not getting paid. The maximum contingency fee that can be charged is 33.33% of the overall settlement or court judgment.