Car Accident Injury Lawyers

If you or someone you love has been injured in a motor vehicle crash in British Columbia, the evidence must show that the driver of the vehicle that hit your automobile, bicycle, motorcycle, or you, was negligent in the operation of the vehicle causing the injury. Or, if you were a passenger, the driver of your bus or automobile must be shown to have been negligent. Then again, a flaw in a defectively designed road, or the maintenance of that road, or a tire blow out from a defective tire could be the proximate and actual cause of the crash.

Hoogbruin & Company specializes in helping people deal with ICBC injury claims resulting from car crashes. As a result, we have had a lot of experience handling Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) cases for injured individuals.

Car Accident Lawyers in Vancouver

Hoogbruin & Company will provide you with advice that has your best interests in mind and our personal injury lawyers will ensure you peace of mind when it comes to dealing with ICBC. Call 604-609-3783 for a case evaluation, initial consultations are always free.

Road Map of a Car Crash Case:

Our recommendations can be found in our Post Crash Checklist.

You can also download our helpful crash checklist pamphlet. Keep this document in your glove compartment as it contains a handy checklist to follow in case you are involved in a car crash.

THE BEGINNING OF THE JOURNEY

  • We will have an interview with you over the telephone to get a quick assessment of the car crash, your injuries, and prioritize what needs to be done next.
  • We will arrange for an in-person interview in our offices, or if you are unable to travel, we will meet with you at a location of your convenience, i.e. a hospital.
  • We will contact ICBC Dial-A-Claim on your behalf and report the crash.
  • We will prepare all documentation required by ICBC to formalize the claim including: a statement, accident benefit claims form, salvage release form, and, if necessary, a hit-and-run statutory declaration.
  • We will facilitate ICBC’s repair or total loss assessment of your vehicle.
  • Obtain medical evidence from your family physician and other medical professionals confirming recommended treatment and facilitate the organization and funding of that treatment either through ICBC or your employer’s extended health insurance. This will require you signing multiple authorizations for us to obtain the evidence.
  • Obtain medical evidence from your family physician and other medical professionals providing opinions on your time off work, if any, and facilitate the funding of disability benefits either through your employer’s sick leave/disability program, Employment Insurance Disability Benefits, or ICBC no-fault benefits.
  • Investigate the crash in terms of liability, causation, and damages [i.e. your injuries]. Our office, or a private investigator hired by us, will interview potential witnesses that saw the crash or its aftermath. We may hire an accident reconstruction engineer to examine the vehicles and, if possible, download data from the event data recorders. We may have a professional prepare a scale diagram of the scene together with photographs of the scene from various views. We will determine if there is any available video of the crash [i.e. a camera at intersection, or video from a nearby commercial premises].

STOPPING FOR THE VIEW

Examination for discovery is an important step in the lawsuit. You have the right to have your personal injury lawyer ask questions of the defendant or defendants under oath. These questions are not asked in a courtroom but rather a court reporter’s office. The questions and answers are recorded by an official court reporter and then transcribed into a book called a transcript. The transcript can then be used in court as a sworn statement. Similarly, ICBC, on behalf of the defendant or defendants, can have their personal injury lawyer ask you questions under oath in the presence of the court reporter who will record those questions and answers, and create a transcript that can be used in court. Hoogbruin & Company will ensure that you are properly prepared for the examination for discovery and put you at ease as much as possible. While an examination for discovery sounds stressful many clients find that once the questioning begins it is not as stressful as they anticipated. The questions you will be asked include questions concerning your pre-crash health, the injuries you sustained in the crash and the effect these injuries have had on your life. These are questions that you can easily answer better than anyone else because it is your life that is the subject matter. The key points to remember are: listen to the question carefully, ensure that you understand the question and then answer the question truthfully.

HALFWAY THERE

  • We continue to work with your family physician and other treating medical professionals to ensure the recommended treatment is put in place and funded.
  • We continue to ensure the funding of your disability benefits until you return to work.
  • We commence lawsuits on your behalf in both the tort claim [suing the individual that caused the crash, who is insured by ICBC], and if necessary, the no-fault benefits claim [that is, suing ICBC directly for disability benefits or treatment].
  • We will gather all medical information, pre-and post crash, and forward copies of the relevant documents to which ICBC and their defence lawyers are entitled.
  • We will gather all relevant income loss information, pre-and post crash, and forward copies of the relevant documents to which ICBC and their defence lawyers are entitled.
  • We will be in contact with you to understand your concerns and needs, how your recovery and treatment is progressing, and to understand the impact the injuries are having on your life and work.
  • We will interview witnesses that can assist us, ICBC, and if necessary the Court, to understand the impact the injuries have had on your life.
  • We will interview witnesses who can assist us, ICBC, and if necessary the court, to understand the impact the injuries have had on your income loss and help us to evaluate that income loss.
  • We may send you to medical professionals for assessment, who in turn will provide us with medical/legal reports that will help us, ICBC, and if necessary the court, to understand your injuries, their prognosis, treatment recommendations, and future disability, if any.
  • We will retain an economist or business valuation expert, as necessary, to assist in the assessment of your income loss.
  • We will obtain court orders for production of the entire police investigation file.
  • We will obtain relevant documents from ICBC and its defence personal injury lawyers.
  • If ICBC or its defence personal injury lawyers wish to send you to their medical experts for assessment, we will ensure that process is done appropriately.
  • We will keep you informed at each step in the process and provide you with copies of all relevant documents.

ALMOST THERE

After you have completely recovered from your injuries or the medical evidence has indicated that you have recovered as much as you will ever recover, it will be time to discuss the settlement of your case with your personal injury lawyer.

Recognize that because it can take a long time for you to recover or stabilize the beginning of settlement negotiations often do not occur until years after the crash. Therefore, at Hoogbruin & Company we recommend and advise our clients to be patient and not rush to settle their cases. Once you settle your case you cannot reopen it. Therefore, at Hoogbruin & Company we want to ensure that you have recovered or stabilized so that we can properly assess your case, recommend the settlement strategy, and take your instructions.

Of course, at all times you are the boss. If you grow impatient with the process you can always instruct us to try to settle the case sooner, but recognize that ICBC is a very sophisticated insurance company and they will know that you are looking to settle the case sooner than may otherwise be advisable. ICBC will try to take advantage of that knowledge.

When the case is ready to settle we will ensure that we have all necessary updated medical information and income loss information to assess your case. We will meet with you and provide you with our views on an appropriate settlement strategy and if you agree with that strategy you will provide us with instructions.

We will then enter into negotiations with ICBC. Each case is unique. Sometimes the case can settle quickly after the beginning of negotiations. Other times the negotiations can be protracted and have months or even years between offers. Sometimes negotiations fail entirely and the case goes to trial.

As part of the negotiation process there will often be a formal mediation. This is an opportunity for the decision-makers, you and the ICBC adjuster, together with all the lawyers to spend a morning or afternoon together trying to settle the case. The process is supervised by a mediator. Statistically cases have about a 70% chance of settling at mediation or shortly thereafter.

Most cases settle. Only a small percentage of cases go to trial. Of all the lawsuits commenced in the Supreme Court of British Columbia that involve car crash cases 95% settle before going to trial. That percentage does not include all the cases that settle even before the lawsuits are started. Therefore, the vast majority of cases settle before going to trial. The reason most cases settle is that the Judges who write the Supreme Court Rules write the rules with the goal of forcing parties to settle before going to trial. Clearly, those rules are effective.

However, if yours is one of the few cases that cannot settle, then we proceed to trial. Trial can take a few days or a number of weeks depending upon the complexity of the case and the issues that need to be resolved. Trial can be with a Judge alone or with a Judge and a Jury.

After trial either party has the right to appeal to the British Columbia Court of Appeal but the law is such that a successful appeal is difficult, so appealing a trial verdict is a rare event.

The final step, after trial or appeal, is the resolution of the Bill of Costs. The successful party in a lawsuit is entitled to a contribution to the legal fees they had to pay and reimbursement of most of the expenses they incurred. Contribution to legal fees and the reimbursement of expenses are set out in a document called a Bill of Costs. Most of the time the Bill of Costs is resolved by agreement with ICBC. However, if the Bill of Costs cannot be resolved by agreement then we will proceed to court for a determination.

Recognize that the above is a very general overview of the process. Each case has its unique aspects that can require its own unique roadmap.

TIME TO GO HOME

When a matter has settled or the Court has made a determination, there is still the matter of the Bill of Costs.

In lawsuits the Plaintiff is suing for certain relief. In personal injury claims that relief is damages or compensation for the impact the injuries have had on your life including compensation for pain and suffering, loss of earnings and out of pocket expenses.

The Defendant, effectively the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia in motor vehicle cases, tries to defend the claim first on liability by denying that there was any fault and as such no compensation should be paid, and secondly, by arguing that the amount of compensation should be minimal, if any. As a general rule, the successful party is entitled to Court “costs”. That is, repayment of expenses incurred in prosecuting or defending the claim and a contribution to legal fees.

UNDERSTANDING COSTS

The term “costs” has two components, as indicated above. Firstly, there is compensation for hiring and paying a lawyer. The amount that a successful party receives under this aspect of “costs” is set out in a formula appended to the Supreme Court Rules referred to as a Tariff. The Tariff attempts to account for all the usual steps in a lawsuit and provides for a range of compensation for each step depending upon the level of complexity of the case and the amount of work involved. The general principle behind the Tariff is that a successful party is to receive approximately 30 – 45 percent of what they are paying their lawyer assuming they are paying their lawyer between $150.00 – $200.00 per hour. There is no intention for complete reimbursement of legal fees, only partial reimbursement. Since the Tariff was developed on the assumption that the client is paying the lawyer an hourly rate the Tariff principle of compensation of 30 – 45 percent of actual legal fees paid on an hourly rate does not apply in contingency fee cases where the lawyer is paid a percentage of the recovery. For example, assume a case goes to trial and the length of trial is approximately five days and the Judge awards $20,000.00. If a lawyer was charging $200.00 per hour the actual legal fees for all the work before and through trial could easily approach $50,000.00. However, if the lawyer is being paid 30 percent, the legal fees would only be about $7,000.00. The Tariff might provide for costs of approximately $10,000.00 – $20,000.00.

If, however, after a five day trial the Defendant is awarded $1,000,000.00 the hourly rate charged would still be about $50,000.00. However, a percentage arrangement would yield a fee of approximately $300,000.00. Costs according to the Tariff would still be $10,000.00 – $50,000.00.

UNDERSTANDING DISBURSEMENTS

The second component of Court costs is disbursements. Disbursements are the expenses incurred in bringing a case to trial or settlement. Disbursements include costs associated with filing fees, agents fees, photocopying, faxing, obtaining medical information from doctors and institutions, obtaining medical/legal reports, obtaining other types of expert evidence such as reports from economists, vocational consultants, cost of care experts, engineers, etc…, as well as litigation support services for interpreting clinical records and hiring private investigators and independent adjusters. The successful party will be reimbursed by the unsuccessful party for most of the disbursements incurred. On some disbursements such as private investigator’s accounts, and litigation support services for interpreting clinical records there can be reductions from the actual expenses incurred. Similarly, if a doctor or other experts charges more than what the Court thinks is fair then the amount reimbursed by the unsuccessful party to the successful party will be reduced.

Usually the Bills of Costs can quickly be resolved by agreement between Plaintiff’s counsel and ICBC. However, sometimes it takes longer and if an agreement can not be reached we may need to proceed to Court for a hearing to determine the amount that the defendant/ICBC is required to pay. If we need to proceed to a hearing for resolution of the Bills of Costs it could take months before we have a hearing date.

We may need to incur, on your behalf, the cost of additional disbursements in the process of resolving or negotiating the Bills of Costs. These disbursements would include the cost of experts providing affidavits justifying their accounts. The affidavits would be used as evidence at a court hearing.

So the Bill of Costs will be resolved, either by agreement or a Court hearing

FORMAL OFFER TO SETTLE

At some point in the lawsuit the parties will probably present a “formal Offer to Settle” to each other. These formal Offers of Settlement can have significant impact on a party’s entitlement to costs and disbursements. When the Defendant presents a formal Offer to Settle to the Plaintiff, the Plaintiff can accept the formal Offer to Settle and the case comes to an end. If the Offer is not accepted and the matter proceeds to trial and the Judge (or Judge and Jury) awards an amount equal to or less than the amount of the formal Offer to Settle by the Defendant, then the Plaintiff will be entitled to costs and disbursements from the beginning of the lawsuit until the date that the formal Offer to Settle was delivered to the Plaintiff’s lawyer, but will not be entitled to costs and disbursements after that date. The Plaintiff will have to pay the costs and disbursements of the Defendant from the date that the formal Offer to Settle was delivered.

SETTLEMENT EXAMPLE

What follows below in the next few paragraphs is an example only. The value of the Judgment presented in the paragraphs that follow are hypothetical and used as a standard illustration. The value of every case is different. The numbers are simply used to provide an example of the effect of formal Offers to Settle. In the example, you would be in the position of the Plaintiff and I.C.B.C. would be in the position of the Defendant.

Suppose the Defendant provides a formal Offer to Settle six months before trial for the sum of $20,000.00. Assume the Plaintiff rejects the offer and the matter proceeds to trial. Then assume that the Judge (or Judge and Jury) awards $18,000.00 to the Plaintiff. The Plaintiff will receive from the Defendant (often I.C.B.C.) the sum of $18,000.00 plus costs and disbursements to the date the formal Offer of Settlement was delivered. Costs and disbursements, in this example, could be $8,000.00. Therefore the total amount received by the Plaintiff will be $18,000.00 plus $8,000.00 for costs and disbursements. However, the Plaintiff will not receive costs and disbursements after the date that the formal Offer of Settlement was delivered and will have to pay I.C.B.C.’s costs and disbursements after that date. Costs and disbursements increase substantially at trial. I.C.B.C. could be entitled to, say $20,000.00, for costs and disbursements from the date that the formal Offer to Settle was delivered.

The numbers work out as follows (for the purposes of the example taxes are excluded):

Judgment$18,000.00
Less lawyer’s Fees of 30%$ (5,400.00)
Less disbursements incurred for prosecuting the matter through trial$(15,000.00)
Subtotal:$ -2,400.00
Plus costs and disbursements payable by the Defendant to the Plaintiff:$ 8,000.00
Less costs and disbursements payable by the Plaintiff to the Defendant.$(20,000.00)
Total owing:$ – 25,600.00

On this example, instead of settling for $20,000 plus costs the Plaintiff ends up owing I.C.B.C. $25,600 at then end of trial. As you can see, by not accepting a formal Offer to Settle the Plaintiff can be placed at serious risk.

The Plaintiff also can present a formal Offer to Settle. If the Defendant refuses to accept the formal Offer to Settle submitted by the Plaintiff and proceeds to trial and the Judge (or Judge and Jury) awards an amount to the Defendant equal to or greater than the amount of the formal Offer then the Defendant will have to pay to the Plaintiff costs and disbursements up until the date that the formal Offer to Settle was delivered to the Defendant and double costs (not disbursements) after that date. Unfortunately, because disbursements are not doubled (only the portion of costs that provides for compensation for hiring a lawyer) and because in personal injury cases disbursements for doctors and other experts tend to be much more significant then in other types of cases, the leverage for formal Offers to Settle is greater for the Defendant than the Plaintiff.

Once the formal Offer of Settlement is delivered to a party, the party can accept any time before the trial begins. However, the party accepting the formal Offer to Settle will not be entitled to costs and disbursements after the date of delivery of the formal Offer to Settle and the other party will be entitled to costs and disbursements from the date of delivery. Therefore, if a formal Offer to Settle is going to be accepted it is better to accept it sooner than later.

HOW TO REPORT YOUR ICBC CLAIM?

You are required by law to report the crash to ICBC. However, we strongly recommend that you contact Hoogbruin & Company prior to contacting ICBC. While you have an obligation to cooperate with ICBC in the crash investigation, you are not required to meet with ICBC. It is appropriate and best to conduct your communications with ICBC (or any other insurance company for that matter) through us.

Why do we say this? Because we want to ensure that when the details of the crash are reported to ICBC that they are reported and recorded as accurately as possible, while at the same time protecting your privacy rights. All too often a crash victim will go into ICBC unrepresented, still in pain, on medication, confused about the crash details and the process, only to be interviewed by a busy ICBC adjuster who may not have the time to conduct a full and proper interview and may, knowingly or unknowingly, attempt to obtain information they are not entitled to obtain.

Car Accident Claim

HOW CAN AN ACCIDENT LAWYER HELP MY ICBC CLAIM?

Hoogbruin & Company will investigate the case thoroughly to discover all potential defendants and their respective fault. We will not hesitate to hire forensic experts, private investigators and accident reconstruction experts or engineers. It is important to conduct these investigations as soon as possible after an accident. If a witness moves away or forgets what they saw, then crucial evidence may be lost.

OUR FEE STRUCTURE

Initial consultations are free. When you first contact us we start with a short free phone call to determine if your legal problem is one we can help you with. If it sounds like it is, we will set up an initial in-person consultation, also free, to explore your options in more detail.

Our fees are on a percentage basis. According to the Legal Profession Act, the most a law firm can charge a client in a car crash case is 33 1/3 % of the recovery (settlement or judgment). On most cases we charge 30% but we take into account a number of factors before determining the fee percentage. Factors that we consider in determining our fee percentage include: whether liability is at issue ( i.e. is the crash clearly the other driver’s fault ), the amount of vehicle damage, the extent of the injury, the time off work, the amount of treatment required, the extent of permanent injury or disability, and the complexity of the medical evidence.

THE LEGAL TEAM OF HOOGBRUIN & COMPANY WILL DO EVERYTHING TO ENSURE THAT YOU ARE TREATED FAIRLY AND WITH RESPECT.

DOWNLOAD OUR POST CRASH PAMPHLET

To protect yourself and ensure the best possible resolution of your personal injury (ICBC) claim, we suggest that you: Record all important information by completing this brochure as soon as possible after the crash.

Request a Free Case Evaluation

Our lawyers and staff offer a personal approach to winning your case. We know what a serious injury can mean to you and your family. As a client, we want to know how the crash has affected your life. We will discuss all aspects of your case with you. Helping you through this difficult time is our commitment. We are always available to answer your questions and will always keep you informed.