Claimants who have been involved in a serious accident and sustained substantial injuries (e.g. broken bones, concussion, severe whiplash), or are likely to miss a significant amount of time away from work as a result of the accident, should likely hire a lawyer to assist with the claim. There are many deadlines and technical requirements that need to be complied with to successfully prosecute a significant personal injury claim and the expertise of a lawyer to guide the claimant through the process will likely be worth the legal fees paid. If any of the following apply then claimants should likely hire a lawyer:
there is concern that the injuries may last longer than a few weeks;
there is an issue as to who was at fault for the accident; and/or
issues such as municipal liability, hit and run drivers, or other complicating factors are involved,
Keep in mind that personal injury lawyers in British Columbia generally charge between 20% and 33% of the compensation the claimant receives.
On the other hand, if the claimant was involved in a minor accident and has only minor injuries (e.g. mild soft tissue injuries which will resolve in a couple of days / weeks) the net recovery may be better if the claimant negotiates directly with ICBC rather than hiring a lawyer. Keep in mind that ICBC may be willing to pay a slightly increased amount to have a claim settled early and without the involvement of lawyers (who generally make the claims process protracted and more expensive). Indeed, ICBC may pay an increased amount to settle early to avoid the risk of having to pay more later on because the claimant’s symptoms escalate. However, uncertainty about how symptoms will progress counts against settling early from the claimant’s perspective and if the claimant is concerned that his or her symptoms may escalate and / or linger, settlement of the claim should almost certainly be delayed and the claimant should consider hiring a lawyer.
It is unwise to settle a claim without legal advice unless all injury symptoms have fully resolved because once the claim is settled the claim is over and the claimant cannot recover more later on.
It is important for claimants who do intend to make a claim, whether on their own or with the assistance of a lawyer, to act promptly as there are important deadlines that apply within weeks of an accident.