October 29, 2014- Not all injury claimants need an injury lawyer in order to settle their injury claim. If your ICBC adjuster has been cooperative in funding recommended treatment and you fully recover in 4 to 6 weeks there is usually no need to hire a personal injury lawyer.
However, be careful that “full recovery” is not just temporarily being symptom free because there maybe an underlying medical condition that may get worse over time. Always ensure your doctor does a thorough examination of you, and orders any tests, before agreeing to settle your case with ICBC.
If it is obvious that your injury will last more than a couple months you should talk to a personal injury lawyer immediately. Most lawyers will agree to talk with you for free before taking your case.
If you have signed a release to settle your case when you did not have a lawyer and now your condition is much worse you may be able to have the court over turn the settlement.
In the ICBC injury claim case of Lidder v. Munro , the claimant, a thirty-five-year-old labourer suffered neck, wrist and knee injuries in a car accident and was unable to return to work. Six weeks after accident claimant was discharged from an ICBC recovery program as “fully recovered”. Two months later claimant’s doctor completed a disability certificate indicating sufficient recovery to return to light work duties. However, the physiotherapist and chiropractor reported worsening symptoms and the ICBC adjuster did not follow up to obtain updated medical reports. At a meeting the ICBC adjuster discouraged injury claimant from getting a lawyer. The claimant then foolishly settled for $6,500.00 and signed release without a lawyer.
In the following months the claimant’s condition worsened and he was unable to return to full time light work for sometime. The court ordered the settlement set aside and said the settlement was outrageous because of the unequal bargaining position between ICBC and the claimant. The court also found the settlement to be simply unfair. The injury claimant’s language barrier, lack of sophistication, and absence of supporting friend at signing of release underscored unequal bargaining position between ICBC and the claimant. The ICBC Adjuster’s advice discouraging legal assistance came close to interfering with claimant’s access to justice.
The Judge ordered that the release be set aside and the claimant return the $6,500 to ICBC.
I think, even though the claimant did get out of the settlement in the end, if he had hired a competent lawyer none of this would have happened.
Posted by Vancouver Personal Injury Lawyer Mr. Renn A. Holness
Issue: Should ICBC adjusters be punished by the court for discouraging legal assistance for injury claimants?