Driving a vehicle is a privilege that most of us take for granted. The law requires that every vehicle on the road be registered and that the owner of the vehicle carry a minimum of $200,000.00 in liability insurance. These days, it is prudent to have liability coverage of at least $1 million, or more. Your liability insurance is to protect you from claims brought against you, if you are at fault for an accident.
In this article I will discuss a number of issues that may arise if you are the one injured in a motor vehicle accident. Your entitlement to benefits, or compensation, will depend on a number of factors.
In most cases, if you are an occupant of a B.C. plated vehicle, or if you are a cyclist or pedestrian struck by a B.C. plated vehicle, you are entitled to what are commonly referred to as “no fault accident benefits”. These benefits are paid by ICBC even if you are entirely at fault for the accident. The benefits are very limited. In general terms, they provide disability benefits of up to $300.00 per week if your injuries prevent you from returning to work for a period of more than 7 days. ICBC will also cover certain medical and rehabilitation expenses. If you are entirely at fault for the accident, the “no fault accident benefits” are all you will recover for your injury claim.
However, if the accident is caused by the fault of someone else, you are entitled to recover a sum of money to compensate you for your pain and suffering, your actual loss of income, any future loss of income, your reasonable out of pocket expenses, your future medical and rehabilitation expenses, as well as other potential losses. If you are partially at fault for the accident, your entitlement will be reduced in proportion to your degree of fault. Further, if your injuries are more serious because you were not wearing a seatbelt in the accident, your recovery may be reduced.
A determination of fault will dramatically affect your entitlement to recover for your losses. For this reason, it is important, following an accident, to record information which may assist in assessing fault. For example, taking the names and phone numbers of witnesses is important. If circumstances allow, it is helpful to have scene photographs of the vehicles before they are moved. Your initial recollection of the events that led to the accident is usually the most accurate, and it is helpful to record your version of the accident as soon as possible before the details are forgotten. The time of day, lighting conditions, presence of snow or ice on the road, and your traveling speed at impact are all factors that could be relevant to the determination of fault.
If you are a passenger, it is unlikely that you will bear any responsibility for the collision and in most cases either the driver of the vehicle you are in, or the driver of another vehicle involved in the accident, will be at fault. However, there are some situations where there could be a determination that no driver is at fault. For example, if the driver of a vehicle is driving in a prudent and safe fashion and a deer suddenly leaps onto the highway, it could be found that the ensuing collision occurred as a result of no fault on the part of the driver. In this situation, all the injured occupants of the vehicle would only be entitled to the “no fault accident benefits”.
Once fault has been determined, it is necessary to assess the value of your loss. The assessment of your loss takes into account not only the injuries you have suffered, but also a number of other factors, such as the duration of your recovery and how the injuries have affected your life. Two people, with identical injuries, may be entitled to awards that are dramatically different. For example, a 35 year old construction worker, with a young family, who suffers a knee injury, may be unable to work or partake in all of his usual family activities. The identical injuries suffered by a 35 year old, single, office worker who enjoys reading and watching sports on TV, may have a much different impact. The office worker may be able to continue working and may be able to participate in many of his or her usual recreational pursuits. The loss suffered by the construction worker may be far more significant than that of the office worker, which would lead to differing awards. There are obviously a number of other factors that have to be considered. The point is, each claim is different and it is important that ICBC understands the full impact of your injuries on your life.
Most people find it difficult to assess the value of their own claim. While ICBC may offer suggestions as to what they think your claim is worth, their interest is clearly from an insurer’s perspective. If your injuries are serious, it is appropriate to seek legal advice. A lawyer will carefully review all aspects of your claim to ensure you are fully compensated for all of your losses Most lawyers who handle this type of work accept files on a contingency fee basis. The lawyer will only be entitled to recover a fee once the claim is concluded and funds are recovered. The lawyer’s fee is generally a percentage of the total sum collected.