Welcome to our page of frequently asked questions. The information on this page should be not be construed as offering legal advice, but it may help inform you of various options you might have.
Some of the most frequent questions we receive include:
Q: “I’ve been injured. What should I do?”
There are many motor vehicle accident scenarios. Perhaps someone didn’t stop at a stop sign and hit you. Or your husband fell asleep at the wheel. Or livestock got loose and you hit a cow. You may remember the police and ambulance arriving, but all else is blank.
Now you’re in the hospital. Your insurance adjuster wants to talk to you. So do the police. The doctor says it may be a while before you can return to work. You think you might want to call a lawyer, but you don’t know any. Then you think of the costs of hiring a lawyer. With the potential medical costs and missed work, the last thing you need is a legal bill. What do you do?
Should you get legal advice? Will it cost you anything? And how do you find a lawyer with the right expertise?
Q: “Should I get legal advice?”
Absolutely. Get legal advice right away. Don't hesitate for one minute.
Why do you need legal advice right away? It's just common sense.
First, the insurance adjuster's primary obligation is to his insurance company, whether that company is I.C.B.C. or any other company. The adjuster's job is to minimize the amount of money the insurance company pays out. This is true whether you are completely innocent in causing the accident, or whether you contributed to the accident in some way. In fact, if you are completely innocent in causing the accident, the insurance adjuster is really acting for the person who injured you. The adjuster is not acting for you.
Second, while most of us are happy to talk to the police, particularly if we did not cause the accident, sometimes it's not possible to easily determine how the accident happened. And sometimes, for any of us, it is difficult to accurately reconstruct a traumatic event. A full and accurate statement might be absolutely critical later on. The police try to do the best job they can. But they do not represent you.
And finally, serious personal injury files usually require careful and experienced legal management from the time of the accident. Your lawyer will help you with the insurance adjuster and the police. He will examine the accident scene and will interview the witnesses. He will help to secure key evidence. He will contact the doctors. He will gather documents from your care givers, the police, the insurance company and any other necessary sources. And, he will help to answer the many questions you will have.
Best of all, these important services are almost always covered by the lawyer’s fixed percentage contingency fee. There is no additional cost to you in hiring a lawyer right at the beginning. But if you do wait, your claim could be prejudiced and be worth less. In other words, waiting will not save you money, but it could cost you money — sometimes a lot of money. In fact, many experienced personal injury lawyers will not take on old cases. And worst of all, a limitation period (the time within which a legal action must be started) could expire and wipe out your claim altogether.
Your lawyer is in your corner. Your lawyer's only duty is to you. He is under a legal and professional obligation to conduct your file in your interests only. Get your lawyer involved early.
Doesn't it make sense to have someone in your corner? You bet it does! Not only is it common sense, your economic future might depend on it!
Q: “Will it cost me anything?”
Almost every lawyer who does personal injury work will give you an initial free appointment. If you don't like the first lawyer, you can go to another one and you won't get a bill.
Once you settle on a lawyer to conduct your personal injury case you will not normally be charged a fee by that lawyer until your case is concluded and concluded successfully. In other words, if your case is lost, the lawyer gets no fee at all. However, some lawyers, including many of the very best ones, ask their clients to pay disbursements such as long distance calls, photocopying, medical records charges, and so on as the file goes along — but, almost always you will be reimbursed for most of these expenses when you win your case.
To summarize so far, your lawyer is in your corner. And you don't have to pay any fee for his services (perhaps just disbursements) unless, and until, he wins for you.
Q: “How do I find the right lawyer?”
Word of mouth can be helpful, but it can also be misleading. Your best friend, who was injured last year and who likes his lawyer, may have picked the best lawyer around. Or he may have picked someone whose track record in personal injury is very limited. The point is that most lawyers try to be likeable, and the average lay person has no idea how to accurately judge his lawyer's real abilities.
But there are ways to tilt the odds in your favour when you go looking for a lawyer:
If you are not satisfied, go on to the next lawyer. But once you meet a lawyer who sounds right to you, trust him or her to conduct your case properly and follow the advice you are given.
Neil M. Robertson has handled major accident cases, involving cars, trucks, buses and motorcycles for over 35 years. He has repeatedly and successfully dealt with brain injuries, coma cases, fibromyalgia, complex fractures, spinal injuries, and other severe and crippling problems. He has also handled significant whiplash cases (some whiplash victims have a permanent and serious disability).
Neil's practice is confined to litigation. His staff is experienced, friendly, and helpful. His office is equipped with an extensive litigation-oriented library and has the latest computerized research and processing tools. Neil has never lost a personal injury case.
Q:“Should I deal with I.C.B.C. on my own?”
A while ago, I.C.B.C. had an ad campaign in which it tried to discourage injured people from getting independent legal advice. "A lawyer may charge up to 1/3rd of your settlement" and "You don't need a lawyer because our adjusters will make you a fair offer" — or, words to that effect.
The ad campaign is gone. But from time to time our firm still hears of I.C.B.C. adjusters saying much the same thing.
First of all, the fee percentages charged by lawyers vary, are tailored to the particular case, and require specific client agreement.
But aside from fees, you might ask yourself, "If I.C.B.C. is going to make me a fair offer, why should they worry about my having independent legal advice?" That is a very good question.
The answer is simple. Far too often, the offers made by I.C.B.C. to innocent lay people fall very short of the mark. For examples, take a look at our Notable Successes.
Our Notable Successes and many other cases indicate the importance of obtaining experienced legal advice. They also indicate the importance of careful, thorough, and experienced investigation and medical analysis by acknowledged experts.
Far too often, I.C.B.C.’s view of what constitutes a reasonable settlement is dramatically different from the views held by experienced lawyers and by the courts. On other occasions, however, the insurance adjuster is simply unaware of the seriousness of the case he is confronted with.
It is the job of the injured victim’s lawyer to ensure that these claims are properly handled so that I.C.B.C. will give them the attention and priority they deserve. And, it is also the lawyer's job to prepare and take the case to a successful trial if needed.
Our firm has never failed to obtain in the courtroom — net after legal fees — more than I.C.B.C. offered before the client came to see us. And we have never lost a personal injury case.
If you, a member of your family, or a friend has suffered personal injuries — even in a low speed crash — come in to see us. The initial appointment is always free.
We take on only those cases where we believe we can help. Remember, the best time to get legal advice is right now! Our firm is friendly and approachable!
Q:“Do I have to insure my vehicle in B.C.?”
Every year we get calls from drivers who find themselves with insurance problems. We know of several people who have been devastated financially because they did not have the insurance coverage they thought they had.
Believe it or not, there are quite a few people who think it doesn't matter if you license and insure your vehicle in another province. "I know I live in British Columbia, but insurance in Alberta (or Saskatchewan, Manitoba, etc.) is cheaper, so I've insured my truck in Alberta using my brother's address in Calgary,” they say.
This is a big mistake for several reasons.
First, I.C.B.C. insurance rates are neither the highest nor the lowest in Canada. They are roughly in the middle. Not only that, but the coverage you get is superior. In fact, some aspects of the insurance coverage available from I.C.B.C. cannot be matched anywhere in North America at any price! I.C.B.C. is far from perfect (is anything perfect?), but the general motor vehicle insurance scheme we have in this province is simply one of the very best and most cost-effective in North America. It has been closely studied by many other jurisdictions.
But aside from the fact that I.C.B.C. insurance is good value, the law requires that you license and insure your vehicle in the province where you actually live. Don't even think of licensing and insuring it in another province. (Same thing with your driver's licence; if you live in BC, you must have a BC driver's licence.)
There is no safe way of escaping this simple rule: if you are a resident of BC, your driver's licence, licence plate and insurance better all say "British Columbia"; otherwise, you are not insured at all.
No kidding, you are not even insured in that other province. If you are a BC resident but used your brother's address in Alberta to license yourself, your vehicle, and buy insurance there, you will not be insured even in Alberta (let alone anywhere else) if the Alberta insurance company finds out where you really live.
Another thing: Your vehicle should be registered and insured in the name of the person who really owns it. That might be you, your wife or your company — whoever the real owner is. If the real owner is someone other than you, but if you are the principal operator of the vehicle (that is, you normally drive it), then you must tell your insurance agent at the time you buy your insurance, and make sure that you are properly recorded as the principal operator.
Yes, insurance premiums are based in part on the driving record of the principal operator. But, if you try to save money by licensing and insuring the vehicle in the name of someone who has lower insurance premiums, and the insurance company is not told who the principal operator is when insurance is bought, then you are likely to find yourself without any insurance coverage in the event of an accident. Parents take note: If your child is the principal operator of a particular vehicle in your family, make sure that your child has been declared as the principal operator on that vehicle's insurance.
Q:“What is an ‘inevitable accident’ as described by insurance companies?”
Act of God. Inevitable accident. These are terms sometimes heard from insurance companies, including I.C.B.C., when they say you can’t recover compensation for your injuries.
An Act of God or inevitable accident (it’s the same thing) is something that is no one’s fault. Hitting a deer. Skidding on black ice that could not have been foreseen. These are common possibilities. (Slippery or icy conditions during winter months are readily foreseeable and do not give rise to inevitable accident.)
Typically, such events cause single-vehicle accidents. And if you are driving alone at the time of such an accident, you are probably not going to be able to recover for your injuries because no one (except maybe yourself) was at fault.
But let’s say you have a passenger — your wife or daughter, for example. You hit a deer or you hit black ice. Both of you are seriously injured. You, as the driver, will get little or no compensation for your injuries. And when your wife or daughter talks to the I.C.B.C. adjuster, she will likely be told that she cannot get compensation for her injuries either. The adjuster will say that her injuries were caused by an Act of God or inevitable accident – a deer running in front of a vehicle, or hitting black ice, is just one of those unavoidable hazards of life.
Wrong! There are actually very few Acts of God or inevitable accident that deprive a passenger of compensation. Almost always, sufficient fault can be attached to the driver.
And if your passenger wife or daughter was injured, isn’t that what you want? To be at fault, so that she can be compensated fully for her injuries through your insurance policy? After all, that’s one of the main reasons you got public liability (third party) insurance in the first place! Many single-vehicle accidents involve family members who are passengers. If you aren’t looking where you are going and run off the road with your wife in the passenger seat, you may not be able to recover anything for your own injuries, but certainly you want your wife to be fully compensated for her injuries. And she can be, because you were at fault. You caused the accident.
But getting back to the examples of hitting a deer, or skidding on black ice; almost always, if the circumstances are looked at closely, sufficient fault can be found for innocent passengers to recover.
Maybe you were going a little too fast (the speed limit may be a little too fast) on a familiar road in early evening where you have seen deer on the road many times before. If so, the law will probably attach enough fault to you so that your passenger can recover. Or maybe you had two beers (below the legal limit) and took your eyes off the road for a moment or two. Or perhaps you continued to drive your truck at or near the speed limit, at night, with occasional rain and a temperature near freezing, ideal black ice conditions. There are many possible scenarios.
If you are in a single-vehicle accident where there are injuries to passengers, you should get knowledgeable legal advice immediately. I.C.B.C. adjusters are alert to possible evitable accident cases. The first thing any adjuster will do is try to get enough on record to support the defence of Act of God or inevitable accident.
In most cases, however, early and careful examination of the facts is likely to show fault of some kind. And your injured passengers will be properly compensated.
How common is a true Act of God or inevitable accident situation, without any fault? Well, I have been doing personal injury work for over 25 years and I have seen only one.