FAQ's on B.C. Motor Vehicle Accidents



Paul Mitchell

Q: Should I call a personal injury lawyer even if I may not have a case?

A: Yes, in BC you should call a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. If a Plaintiff does not hire a personal injury lawyer immediately, some of the evidence may be gone by the time the Plaintiff's lawyer can hire an accident reconstruction expert. Important evidence must be secured and witnesses identified and interviewed as soon as possible. Since there is generally no charge for an initial consultation, there is nothing to lose by calling a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your case.

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Q: How long do I have to make a claim in BC?

A: You must start a BC lawsuit within 2 years or your claim will be barred. There are exceptions in certain types of BC cases which may make the period shorter (claims against a municipality must be dealt with immediately).

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Q: How do I pay my BC personal injury lawyer?

A: In personal injury cases, the lawyer is usually paid a "contingent fee." A contingent fee is calculated on the basis of the amount of money recovered for the client. This means that the personal injury lawyer is paid the agreed percentage of the total settlement. Different percentages may apply to certain types of cases, depending on the amount of the claim, and the risk of the injured person being found partially or fully responsible for the accident.

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Q: What does the BC lawyer do?

A: A personal injury lawyer's goal is to achieve maximum compensation for his client. Immediately after the accident the BC personal injury lawyer's primary role should be to ensure that the injured victim receives the proper medical and rehabilitation care to maximize their recovery. As the case progresses the personal injury lawyer's role is to gather information and eventually convince the Defendant's insurer and lawyer that it is in their best interests to settle the case for a fair amount. The lawyer's role is to prepare the case in such a manner that the other side wants to settle. This means obtaining the best possible experts in all of the areas that require expert evidence. Personal injury cases in BC often require numerous experts including economists, structured settlement experts, actuaries, numerous medical experts, future care costs experts including rehabilitation consultants and vocational consultants.

On the issue of liability the personal injury lawyer will attempt to reconstruct the accident using accident reconstruction experts, automotive engineers, surveyors, photographers and many complex procedures.

Once the expert evidence is compiled settlement negotiations begin. This will often require numerous meetings between the two personal injury lawyers and the insurer and often joint meetings with the experts from both sides in an attempt to clarify the issues. Mediation is often attempted. In the end, if settlement discussions fail to achieve a settlement that is acceptable to both sides, the final alternative is to have a trial and have a Judge or Jury decide.

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Q: I was injured in an accident and someone from the insurance company called me. Do I need to talk to them?

A: You should always talk to a personal injury lawyer before talking with anyone about your injury, the way the injury happened, or anything else about your potential claim. You may not understand the significance of questions you are asked by an insurance adjuster and anything you say could be used against you later. Insurance adjusters work for insurance companies, and it is their goal to pay as little as possible to the injured person.

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Q: How long will it take to settle my claim?

A: Some of the factors which determine how long it takes to settle a case in BC include the seriousness of the injury, complexity of the case, which insurance company is involved, and how clear it is that the other person was at fault in causing the injury. Your claim should not be settled until your injury has stabilized, and the long term impacts on your employment and life may be accurately assessed.

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Q: How much is my case worth?

A: It is extremely difficult to estimate the value of a case until all of the facts and circumstances are known. In BC, the law allows a person injured by the wrongdoing of another person to collect the following types of compensation:

  • Past and future medical bills
  • Past and future lost income
  • Pain and suffering
  • Wrongful death (certain family members are entitled to be compensated when a relative is killed)
  • Out of pocket legal expenses

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Q: My adjuster told me I should wait to talk to a BC personal injury lawyer until after ICBC has made me a settlement offer and if I am not happy with its offer. Should I wait?

A: Three keys to any insurance company keeping its settlement payouts low are to ensure that:

  • Claimants do not fully know their legal rights,
  • Claimants do not have the knowledge to build a strong legal and medical case and
  • Claimants do not have a viable alternative but to accept the offer of the insurance company when the time finally comes to negotiate a settlement.

ICBC tries very hard to keep injured people from hiring personal injury lawyers for the above reasons.

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Q: What happens if the other driver has insufficient insurance?

A: There is a "limits problem" when the amount of the potential claim may exceed the amount of insurance coverage that the Defendant carries.

As a result of this the Plaintiff's personal injury lawyer must carefully assess whether there is any possibility that someone other than the other driver may be partially at fault for the accident.

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Q: What is Underinsured Motorist Protection (UMP)?

A: Underinsured Motorist Protection (U.M.P.) in BC provides the Plaintiff with a certain amount of protection when the potential claim may exceed the amount of insurance coverage available. In general, terms if the Plaintiff is a registered owner of a vehicle or is a "dependent relative" of a registered owner of a vehicle, then he or she will be covered by Underinsured Motorist Protection of varying amounts. If there is U.M.P. in existence the limits of insurance available for the Defendant will be increased to the amount of the U.M.P. coverage of the Plaintiff.

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Q: What Are No Fault Benefits?

A: British Columbia has a partial "no-fault system" which means that an injured person in a motor vehicle accident is entitled to certain benefits even if he or she caused the accident. The system is commonly referred to as "Part VII benefits" or "no fault benefits".

No Fault benefits in British Columbia are comprised of three separate areas:

  • Medical and rehabilitation benefits.
  • Disability benefits for employed persons and homemakers.
  • Death benefits including funeral expenses and other benefits for survivors.

No-fault benefits in British Columbia are payable regardless of whether the injured person is at fault or not.

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Paul Mitchell is at Pushor Mitchell LLP, Lawyers in Kelowna, British Columbia


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