1) What are my legal entitlements if I’m in a motor vehicle accident that’s not my fault?
Many don’t realize that those injured in motor vehicle collisions have three very separate potential claims.
The first is a claim for reimbursement of the cost of repairing your damaged vehicle or, if the vehicle is written off, a claim for the value of your vehicle at the time of the accident. This claim is paid by ICBC under a collision insurance policy. Usually, reimbursement of the cost of repairs is not particularly contentious and, if the accident is considered by ICBC not to be your fault (or if ICBC only attributes a small portion of fault to you), the deductible is waived. Also, if the vehicle is a write-off, the value of the vehicle is usually determined simply by searching for advertised vehicles which are of similar age, mileage and condition. If you are not satisfied with ICBC’s offer for your vehicle, you may be able to negotiate the amount by conducting your own research and presenting your ICBC adjuster with better comparables.
The second is a claim for no-fault rehabilitation benefits. These are benefits to which anyone involved in a collision in B.C. are entitled, regardless of who is at fault. These benefits generally provide a very modest reimbursement of necessary medical expenses, wage loss, home making services, and necessary transportation. For example, for as long as you qualify for these benefits, ICBC will pay $25.20 for an initial visit with a physiotherapist and $17.62 for subsequent visits. Also, if you are disabled from working as a result of an accident, ICBC will pay up to $300 per week in disability benefits. However, these benefits are secondary to any other funding source available, such as disability benefits from work or employment insurance.
The third is a claim for damages, also called a tort claim, which arises by virtue of your not being wholly at fault for the accident. Your claim for damages is intend to provide you with full compensation of all losses suffered, past and future, as a result of the accident. However, the entitlement is subject to payment in proportion to the amount for which you are not at fault for the accident. For example, if you are 25% responsible for the relevant accident, you are entitled to 75% of full compensation for all your past and future losses.
2) When should I settle my claim?
Ideally, in our opinion, you should not settle your claim until:
- You have been pain-free for at least 3-6 months;
- You have returned to all of your regular activities without any aggravation of your pain; and
- Your doctor or treating professionals pronounce you fully recovered.
While we would like to hear from you as soon as possible so that we can protect your rights and begin building your case immediately, if more than a year passes and these pre-conditions have not been met, we strongly recommend that you give us a call, because there is a strong possibility that future losses will have to be considered, and ICBC will be very unlikely to pay for future losses without someone to advocate and produce persuasive medical evidence on your behalf.
In any event, you have 2 years to start a legal action before your right to do so expires. This does not mean that you only have 2 years to settle your claim.