This series, by BC personal injury lawyer Paul Mitchell Q.C, will explain the Top Ten mistakes to avoid with your ICBC personal injury claim. The articles will give tips on how to ensure you do not make serious mistakes that could be fatal to your claim.
For 10 issues of Legal Alert, Paul will focus on one mistake you should avoid, and what you should do instead to ensure your ICBC personal injury claim is not prejudiced.
This month, Mistake # 2, Settling Your Case Too Early
One of the most costly mistakes people make with their ICBC claims is settling too early.
I often have people call and say “I settled my claim, and my pain has gotten worse”, or “it is lasting longer than ICBC said it would, or my GP said it would”, or “I am still having terrible difficulties working”.
Clients often settle early because they are financially strapped. ICBC knows this, and will dangle a cheque when they know the person is desperate, and when they know full well it is too early to settle.
ICBC knows that the longer the symptoms persist, the more the claim is worth. Insurance companies often make an offer to the claimant very early on, before the long term effects of the injury are known, and before the pain has gone away, with the hopes of minimizing their risks.
ICBC is looking at the bottom line. They want to pay you as little as they can. They act for the driver who caused your injury. They are not on your side. One of the ways they can pay you as little as possible is to convince you to settle as early as they can. They often use very convincing language, like “this is all your claim is worth”. or “ this is all we can pay”, or “injuries such as yours always clear up in a few months, so you can settle now”. Or they will ask you “what will it take to make this go away”, hoping you will undervalue your claim.
You should NEVER SETTLE you claim until the following has been determined ;
– has your injury stabilized or plateaued ? By that I mean, have your medical experts ( not the adjuster or ICBC experts) advised you that you will not get any better? If you are still in pain, it is likely too early to settle, or it is too early to settle unless many issues are clarified. All injuries are different, and people all heal differently. It is impossible to predict that you will be pain free in 3 months, or 6 months. Doctors are often wrong. What if they say you will be better is 3 or 6 months, and you settle your claim relying on this, and you are still in significant pain after 1 year, or 2 years? Don’t take the risk.
– if your injury has stabilized or plateaued, and you are still in pain, have you properly assessed how this pain may affect your employability for the rest of your life? What if you want to change careers? Will it impact on your ability to get promoted in your profession, work overtime, or will it impact on how long you can work, and when you must retire ? All of these must be assessed, often with a variety of experts, including experts in your profession, vocational rehabilitation experts, medical experts, and economic experts, such as economists and actuaries. Do not rely on ICBC appointed experts, who are sometimes biased and rely on ICBC referrals for a large portion of their income.
– if you are still in pain, do you have medical experts quantifying the costs of all of your medical treatment, medications for the duration of your symptoms in the future, which could be for the rest of your life?
– if you are still in pain, have you taken into account restrictions on your ability to do housework and yard maintenance, and the cost to have someone assist you with these tasks ? Has this been quantified by the proper experts?
If you have complications in the future from the accident, you can’t reopen your case and ask for more money.
When you settle, you settle for good. A formal Release is signed. There’s no going back. It’s almost impossible, and very costly, to have a settlement agreement overturned if you change your mind in the future.
So don’t roll the dice by settling too early.
Don’t rely on ICBC when they tell you what your claim is worth, or that it is “time to settle”.
Don’t make a mistake.
Make your case.
Paul Mitchell, Q.C.is a BC personal injury lawyer who has extensive experience with severe injury claims, including brain injury claims, spinal injury claims, death claims, ICBC claims, medical malpractice claims, and other catastrophic injury claims.
He acts for injured clients all over BC and Alberta, and will not act for ICBC or any other insurance company.
For more information on this article, or for a confidential discussion of your personal injury claim, contact Paul Mitchell, Q.C. at 250-869-1115 (direct line), or send him a confidential email at firstname.lastname@example.org