If you’re hurt in a car accident, you may be entitled to receive compensation for your injuries. To maximize your chances of getting a fair settlement, there are a number of things you can do.
Immediately after the accident, you and the other driver should exchange names, addresses and phone numbers plus driver’s licence, registered owner and vehicle information. Also get the contact information for any witnesses and ask them to stay and talk with the police.
If you’re not sure if you’ve been hurt, go to the hospital for a check-up. Shock can mask pain and the symptoms of any injuries. If you’ve suffered a whiplash or other soft tissue injury of the back or shoulders, you may in fact feel worse the next day. As soon as possible, you should see your family doctor and report all symptoms. Keep all appointments with your doctor(s) and physiotherapist(s), and follow their recommended advice.
You must also report the accident to ICBC, which will appoint an adjuster to handle the case. The adjuster will want to meet with you and take a written statement concerning your injuries. You should know this is done for the benefit of ICBC, and your statement may be used against you later in court. Even very minor mistakes can be used to discredit you. The reality is that the adjuster’s job is to minimize the amount paid to you, whether or not you were at fault. And they don’t have any obligation to inform you of all you are entitled to.
Your best bet is not to sign anything and to speak with a lawyer first before talking with the adjuster. Your lawyer’s job is to represent your best interests and obtain the best possible result for you.
Don’t worry about not being able to afford a lawyer. Many personal injury claims are paid on a “contingency fee” basis, where fees are determined on a percentage of the ultimate amount recovered on behalf of the injured victim. This means your lawyer only gets paid when you get paid. If you speak with a lawyer right away, they can report the accident for you and speak with the adjuster.
Having a lawyer also invariably means you’ll recover fair compensation for your claim. In most cases, the amount ICBC offers is less than what lawyers negotiate for their clients – even after the legal fees are deducted.
Do be patient, however. The time required to settle a claim depends on how long it takes you to recover from your injuries – if indeed you do fully recover. You need to wait until your injuries subside to a point where fair compensation can be determined. Recovering from a whiplash injury often takes longer than people think.
Keep copies of expenses, doctor’s prescriptions, medical records, statements and other documents you get or sign. You’ll need your receipts to be reimbursed for your out-of-pocket expenses.
Finally, you must be completely honest. ICBC will thoroughly investigate your claim, and may even secretly film you or talk to your acquaintances about your activities and health. Your credibility is very important when proving your claim.
Your lawyer can assist you throughout.
Janice Mucalov, LL.B. for Gertsoyg & Company. This column provides information only and must not be relied on for legal advice. Please call Yan Gertsoyg at (604) 602-3066 if you have any questions or for legal advice concerning your particular case.