When should I settle with ICBC?

“When should I settle with ICBC?” Now, this is a question I get asked a lot and it is often followed by the million dollar question, “How much should I settle for?” This second question however, I will save for another day.

Lawyer or no lawyer, you should almost never settle your personal injury claim with ICBC (or any other insurance company for that matter), until you have either: (1) recovered 100% from your injuries; or (2) you have reached maximum medical improvement, which essentially means that you are not going to get any better (or not much better). With the second situation, you will need a diagnosis and prognosis for your injuries from your doctor.

Why is the timing so important? Because, until you have recovered from your injuries or know your prognosis, you do not know the full extent of how your injuries are going to impact your life and what financial losses you are going to suffer. Without this information, you cannot properly assess the value of your claim.

Imagine you are in a car accident and suffer injuries to your neck and back. You see your doctor; receive a diagnosis of Whiplash Associated Disorder (“WAD”) to your cervical and lumbar spine. Your doctor prescribes you some anti-inflammatory and pain medication along with physiotherapy and massage therapy. You miss a few weeks of work, follow the medical advice you have received and you begin to see some improvement in your condition over the course of several months. The adjuster from ICBC calls you up around six months after the accident and offers you some money to settle your claim. You figure that you are about 65-75% better and you could really use the money. So you settle your claim for a small amount. Unfortunately, two years later you still find you are suffering from your injuries. You are finding they are preventing you from doing activities that you didn’t even think about at the time of settlement, like skiing, golfing, running, storm chasing, etc. and it has been having an effect on your work performance such that you have had to reduce your hours of work. The hard reality is that had you known the full consequences of your injuries, you probably would not have settled for the small amount you did around the six month mark and you are now stuck without any recourse for these additional losses.

As with all situations there are some exceptions to the rule. One of these exceptions is where risk of death is a real concern. Generally speaking when someone dies, their personal injury claim dies with them so if this is your situation it doesn’t make sense to wait for recovery.

It is really important to remember that if you are negotiating with ICBC or any other insurance company that you still have a limitation period in which you must commence your claim or your claim will die. Filing a claim with ICBC and engaging in settlement negotiations do not stop the clock from running. You must file a lawsuit! As a result, if you are not sure whether you should settle or for how much, do not let ICBC pressure you into settling because the limitation period is coming up. Retain a lawyer or file the lawsuit yourself well before the limitation period (usually two years). This will preserve the limitation period and allow you to continue your recovery and postpone your settlement negotiations to a time that is right for you to settle. However, if you do not settle your case prior to the limitation period or commence the lawsuit, you will no longer have a valid claim. When in doubt, be sure to contact a lawyer. Most personal injury lawyers will meet with you or talk to you on the phone for free.


*Important Note: The information contained in this column should not be treated by readers as legal advice and should not be relied on without detailed legal counsel being sought.


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About the Author

Keri Grenier is an experienced personal injury lawyer based at Murphy Battista LLP's Kelowna office. She also holds a B.A. in psychology. Her practice focuses on helping people who have been injured in motor vehicle accidents or due to the negligence of others.

In her column, Keri provides practical information about personal injury claims in a format that is simple and easy to understand.

Email: [email protected]

Website: http://www.murphybattista.com

Twitter:  http://twitter.com/KelownaLawyer

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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