ICBC & ICBC Adjusters
Remember that if you are injured and are not at fault, your claim is against the policy of insurance of the “at-fault” driver; not against your own insurance policy. ICBC’s obligation is to represent the party who is responsible for your injuries. They have no obligation to facilitate or assist in the development of all the necessary components of your case.
ICBC adjusters have two primary functions, assigning blame (sometimes called assessing liability or fault) and minimizing claims costs (such as yours – i.e., keeping injury awards as low as possible).
In BC, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC), is commonly the insurance company for all the drivers in a motor vehicle accident. This potentially puts ICBC in a conflict of interest, because ICBC may represent both the driver who caused the accident and the innocent victim. ICBC’s duty to represent the policy of insurance of the “at-fault” vehicle means they are obliged to pay out as little as possible from the at-fault driver’s policy of insurance to you. Also, ICBC is a Crown Corporation and has a duty to taxpayers to keep mandatory insurance premiums low. Part of how they accomplish this is by taking action to keep claims costs low (i.e., minimizing the cost of making insurance payments to people injured in motor vehicle accidents). The result is pressure on ICBC adjusters to look for weaknesses in your case that can reduce the amount of compensation ICBC must pay you. This often starts from your very first contact with ICBC when you report the accident to a Dial-a-Claim operator.
When you report the accident, you may be asked to give a verbal statement. Once your file has been assigned to the adjuster who calls you, you may be asked to provide a written account of the accident, but at these stages, all you need to do is report that an accident occurred and demonstrate your intention to provide a statement at a later date. You should be aware that the person you talk to is trained to start looking for weakness in your case and ICBC will not hesitate to use your statement as evidence to prove that you:
Caused or contributed to the accident;
Were not properly insured at the time of the accident;
Had injuries before the accident or had other problems that caused your injuries; or
That there were other facts present that should reduce the value of your claim.
It is perfectly acceptable for you to advise the Dial-a-Claim operator that you are happy to answer their questions fully when you speak with an adjuster and that you’d prefer to wait until then to describe what happened to make sure you provide a full and accurate account and don’t forget any important information.
If you decide to deal with ICBC on your own, the first conversation with the ICBC adjuster is important and can set the tone for how your case will be handled. You may be asked to:
Describe your version of the accident;
Confirm whether the police and emergency vehicles attended;
Discuss your injuries and any pre-existing conditions;
Provide information if you are unable to work;
Discuss the impact of the accident on your life; and
Provide a signed statement.
During that first conversation with the assigned injury adjuster, the adjuster will also likely speak to you about:
Sending you documents related to your employment and other insurance plans that ICBC wants you to sign and return;
Having you sign releases to allow ICBC to collect information about you, which could include such items as medical records, including periods prior to the crash;
Having you give a written or verbal statement. Often ICBC will draft your statement with you by phone and then send it to you to sign and return.
Providing a statement and/or signing and providing those documents to ICBC can affect the compensation you end up receiving.
The ICBC adjuster may ask you to provide the following information:
Your vehicle insurance papers, including those of any other auto insurer that provides coverage for you;
Your driver’s licence;
Names of witnesses;
Your MSP number;
The name of the garage that is repairing your vehicle; and
Details of extended medical benefits or disability plans that you may have;
A recent pay stub from your employer if you are off work.
Getting legal advice prior to providing this information to the ICBC adjuster is strongly recommended.
IMPORTANT: If you have already spoken with ICBC on your own, it is not too late to get legal advice and help. For example, it is always a good idea to get independent legal advice before you sign a settlement agreement, particularly if you are still in the process of recovering from your injuries.