1. Not getting the contact information tied to the other vehicle involved in the accident
While your immediate interest must be to ensure your safety and seek all necessary medical attention, you also have a legal duty to make reasonable efforts to properly identify the driver and owner of the vehicle which collided with you. A failure to do so may prevent you from pursuing a claim.
Therefore, unless you are unsafe or require immediate medical attention, you should ideally try to obtain the contact information of the driver who hit your vehicle from his or her driver’s licence, and the owner’s contact information from the insurance certificate. At the very least, immediately take a picture of, or write down, the plate number if you can.
2. Not Documenting At the Scene of the Accident
If you or the people you are with can take pictures of the accident scene, either with a camera or a phone, do so. Often, not only the vehicle damage, but other details including debris on the road, the location of crosswalks and street signs, and the resting positions of the vehicles are critical in determining how and why the accident happened.
Also, try to find witnesses at the scene and make best efforts to obtain their contact information (names, addresses, and telephone numbers). Again, a single statement from even one independent witness can often have a drastic effect on your ability to prove the other driver’s responsibility for the accident.
3. Apologizing or Otherwise Admitting Responsibility for the Accident
Sometimes a person’s natural reaction to a stressful situation is to apologize to others involved, whether they ultimately feel responsible for the situation or not. However, when involved in a motor vehicle accident, ICBC will seek to transform any apologies or admissions of guilt into a formal admission of liability for the accident, which could have a very detrimental effect on your ability to obtain a just resolution of your claim.
Therefore, when at the scene of the accident, while you may want to be as civil and thoughtful as possible in respect of the others involved in the accident, be careful not to apologize or admit any responsibility for the accident. It may help to remember that until and unless you know exactly what the others involved in the accident were doing, you can never be completely sure that you are entirely to blame.
4. Discussing Details of your Case with Others
While certainly you will want to and you should explain to friends and family that you were injured in an accident, do not discuss legal matters or the detailed circumstances of the accident with anyone.
This recommendation applies especially to the other parties involved in the accident, even if they are family or friends. Under no circumstance should you discuss responsibility for the accident with those involved in the accident. Leave it to us and ICBC to determine who was responsible.
5. Giving ICBC a signed detailed statement
Though you must report the accident to ICBC, you do not have to provide a detailed signed statement. In fact, the main purpose of the statement is not to allow you to access benefits (as some adjusters may have you believe), but to acquire information and evidence which may assist ICBC in defending against your claim.
6. Misunderstanding the ICBC representative’s role
Though the ICBC adjuster works for you in terms of allowing you to access rehabilitation benefits as soon as possible after an accident, the other important aspect of their job is to close your claim as soon as possible – certainly before the extent of your injuries are known; and ultimately to settle your claim as cheap as possible. Despite being a Crown Corporation, ICBC is an insurance business, not a charity.
7. Authorizing ICBC to Obtain your Medical and Work History
Though an adjuster may tell you that they need you to sign authorizations to access your medical and work history before they can process your rehabilitation benefits, this is simply not the case. ICBC has no right to your medical and work records as a condition to providing you with rehabilitation or disability benefits.
Also, if you provide these authorizations, ICBC may use them to request your medical and work history and use the information to investigate their defences to your claim or use them against you when you try to resolve your claim. For this reason, our first step after being retained by a client is to write ICBC and advise that our client’s authorizations are revoked.
8. Waiting to Seek Medical Attention
A delay in seeking medical treatment generally yields two reasonable conclusions, neither of which assists your claim. The first is that the injuries are simply “not that big a deal”; the second is that the injuries weren’t caused by the accident, and were instead the result of an intervening event. For that reason, seek medical treatment as soon as possible, and continue to see your doctor reasonably often, every couple months or whenever there is a change in your symptoms or rehabilitation plan. At every visit, do your best to tell your doctor about all your concerns, including physical concerns from your head, going down through all parts of your body to your neck, shoulder, arms, chest, upper back, abdomen, lower back, etc. to your toes; emotional difficulties such as anxiety or sadness; and cognitive difficulties, such as difficulties concentrating or memory problems, as applicable.
9. Getting Treated by Multiple General Practitioners
There are two main reasons why using multiple general practitioners is ineffective. First, with visits to multiple family doctor, no single doctor is responsible for considering an overall treatment plan. At best, the doctor can only write a prescription or provide singular recommendations, some of which may even be at odds with other recommendations from the other doctors. Secondly, without a single doctor, there is no one from whom you can seek a comprehensive medical opinion. Therefore, find a family doctor with whom you feel comfortable and stick with him. At the very least, if you cannot find a family doctor, go to the same clinic and make every effort to see the same doctor repeatedly.
10. Not following the doctor’s advice
You have a legal obligation to take reasonable steps to overcome your injuries. That means following the doctor’s advice. If you disagree with what your doctor wants you to do, discuss your reasons with your doctor. If your doctor still wants you to do it, try it and report back to your doctor how it went. Usually they will then listen to your concerns and make the necessary adjustments in your treatment.
11. Not Properly Documenting Injuries and Complaints
At the end of every week, jot down a few notes in a journal about how you have felt in respect of your accident-related injuries over that past week. Without keeping such a journal, you will likely forget how you felt at particular times during your recovery from your accident-related injuries when asked about it under oath years later. These memory lapses, while understandable, may leave the impression that you aren’t a good historian when it comes to your accident-related injuries, and may therefore affect your credibility. Also, without keeping a journal as a reminder prior to visiting your doctor, you may forget to discuss certain injuries or difficulties with your doctor during your appointment.
At the same time, be brief with your notes, don’t share your notes with anyone other than your lawyer, and always make your notes with the understanding that they may have to be disclosed to the other side as part of the litigation. If you have retained a lawyer, that lawyer may be able to maintain the confidentiality of the notes, but this cannot necessarily be guaranteed.
Also, take photographs of any scarring, bruising or cuts that you may have suffered in the accident and keep any casts, braces or other appliances you may have needed for your accident-related injuries to preserve the evidence long after the injury has improved.
12. Using “All or Nothing” Terminology
While we all have a tendency to be colloquial when interacting with friends and colleagues, courts and ICBC tend to treat statements quite literally. As an example, ICBC will view your use of the term “I can’t” as describing a physical impossibility and “I never” as describing and event that has not occurred once. If these terms are used, particularly when under oath or affirming to tell the truth, ICBC will then hunt for a single example do prove that you did and you can do the thing which you said you can’t and never do, then use that example to attack your credibility.
It is far safer, and frankly more admirable, to work toward the idea that, while you may not be able to do things as well as you could before, you are trying to improve and trying to return to your pre-accident lifestyle.
13. Missing your Limitation Date
Various laws and statutes require things to be done on your claim within 30 days, 60 days, 2 months, 6 months and 2 years, depending on the claim. A lawyer can advise and guide you through these limitation dates and make sure that your claim is not denied simply because you missed a deadline.
14. Not retaining a lawyer as soon as possible
The longer you remain unrepresented, the more likely it becomes that the value of your claim may become compromised. This is particularly true when there may be an issue as to your responsibility for the accident as, even if you have strong supportive witnesses, memories fade and what may turn out to be critical details may be forgotten with every day that passes.