You may be struggling with whether to:
– hire a lawyer as opposed to
– obtaining general legal advice about your ICBC claim.
Unfortunately, a few younger and less busy lawyers don’t tell people the full or true facts about the pros and cons of hiring a lawyer for their injury claim and sometimes instill fear when they have a duty to be as objective as possible.
In my view, the more serious and permanent a person’s injury is the greater the benefit is for the person to hire a lawyer even though the lawyer will, of course, charge legal fees out of the claimant’s final settlement or court award.
The upside of a lawyer’s involvement is the greatest if the injured person ends up not substantially recovering from his or her injury. This is because:
- good lawyers have the ability to provide strong medicolegal proof that the person may never recover and
- a lawyer also can sue and set a trial date in the Supreme Court of BC for your case and
- the lawyer can then negotiate soon before the trial date.
Lawyers have little additional bargaining clout with ICBC compared to a claimant regarding issues such as car repairs or car replacement valuation and immediate reimbursement of medical expenses (as opposed to at the end of the claim near a trial date). In contrast, the claimant has some bargaining clout early on because ICBC does not want him or her to hire a lawyer.
Threatening ICBC’s adjuster, that you will hire a lawyer, is not the best approach. Rather telling a recalcitrant adjuster that you want to resolve an issue such as treatment expenses and wage replacement without having to hire a lawyer is a better approach.
The reality is that it is only close in time to one’s trial date (Small Claims Court for smaller cases worth up to $35,000 and the Supreme Court of BC for larger cases) when an injured person will finally have a great deal of pressure on ICBC to come up with a fair offer in the range of what a court is likely to award him or her.
This is because:
- one has almost immediate recourse to the court if ICBC is not reasonable in negotiations and
- if one recovers more at trial in the Supreme Court of BC than ICBC offered one, then ICBC will have to pay:
- not only the damages the judge awards but also:
- its own lawyer’s fees,
- part of one’s lawyer’s fees for more serious cases and
- the substantial expenses of both sides for very expensive medical & other expert witnesses.
If you have suffered very significant injuries and it is clear that you will have long-term consequences of these injuries or if there are concerns about whether you are partly or entirely at fault then it is likely in your best interest to hire a lawyer soon after your accident.
If that is not your situation, you may want to consider obtaining legal advice (many lawyers offer free initial consultations) and obtaining treatment for a few months to see how you progress with your recovery.
If your pain level about 3 to 5 months after your accident continues to rise during the day to the moderate range (5 – 6 or more on a scale of 1 to 10) and you are not progressing much with your treatment then it is quite likely that your claim for damages against the other driver will eventually be worth more than $35,000. This would entitle you to reimbursement by ICBC of part of your legal fees. Therefore, sometime within or soon after that period, would likely be a good time for you to decide whether or not hiring a lawyer will be cost effective for you.
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