Initial Dealings with the ICBC Adjuster

The adjuster is looking to determine the details of the accident along with the nature of the injuries

After making the initial report to ICBC, an adjuster may follow-up via a phone interview. The adjuster is looking to determine the details of the accident along with the nature of the injuries. More particularly, the adjuster is trying to find evidence that will help minimize the claim and help place your claim into the “minor injury” category. Such evidence includes pre-accident medical issues, unrelated events, lack of medical care, non-disabling nature of the injuries, etc.

If liability is straight forward against the other driver and there is no injury claim, there is no real risk of speaking with the adjuster if you are called.  If you have an injury claim, however, you may wish to avoid an extensive interview unless your injuries are clearly outside the “minor injury” definition. The reason for full disclosure in serious injury cases is you don’t want ICBC placing your claim in the “minor injury” category when it clearly is not a “minor injury” as you would then be required to take positive steps to remove the claim from that category.

You want to avoid signing blank authorizations allowing ICBC access to all medical and wage loss records the adjuster feels are necessary to defend the claim. The adjuster regularly sends unrepresented claimants these authorizations shortly after the claim is opened. Rather, if you do sign authorizations, make sure they are not “open ended” and only request a specific set of documents from a specific service provider.

If you plan to hire a lawyer right away, the lawyer will provide only the necessary information to ICBC thus shielding you from the adjuster. The lawyer will screen the document requests from the adjuster and only provide necessary information.

If you are acting on your own, some ICBC adjusters provide full coverages of expenses early on if you are cooperating fully with their every demand. If you do not allow full access to everything the adjuster requests, many adjusters then turn off the payments because you are not playing “their game”.

Be cautious about the adjuster’s true motive. Some adjusters want to help whereas most others are setting you up to minimize your compensation including establishing evidence to place the claim in the “minor injury” category.

Hiring a lawyer early on to help with the initial reporting avoids the eventual clash when the adjuster is not getting everything he/she wants. The adjuster knows he/she cannot force the lawyer into giving unlimited access to information. Hence, the lawyer acts as a shield in protecting you against unreasonable demands of the adjuster.

In terms of getting your vehicle repaired, in almost all cases, you need to attend an ICBC certified repair shop for the inspection, and not the ICBC claim center. The repair shop will communicate with ICBC to determine what repairs will be covered. ICBC will ultimately authorize the repair of your vehicle, deny some or all the damage claim or write-off your vehicle.

If you have an injury claim, you need to fill out an Accident Benefit Claim Form (CL-22) to pursue your entitlement to disability and medical benefits, which are called Part VII benefits.

When filling out the Accident Benefit Claim Form (CL-22), you are asked several questions including the type of injuries suffered. Make sure the form is complete because if you miss an injury, ICBC is going to point to this document later to question the injury.

ICBC has moved away from getting detailed statements from claimants shortly after the accident. However, if you are self-represented, the adjuster will likely call you periodically to ask you questions on such things as pre-accident health issues, nature of injuries, limits on activities, wage loss, etc. Be as accurate as possible when answering the adjuster’s questions as otherwise, you may create credibility concerns that will shadow the claim going forward.

Overall, you have little obligation to provide a detailed statement to ICBC. The rule of thumb is the less ICBC knows, the better off you are. The only time it is advantageous to fully disclose information to ICBC is if it helps prove your claim is not a “minor injury”, it advances your claim at the time of settlement, it assists you in getting a money advance on your claim or it assists in getting funding for rehabilitation or disability benefits through Part VII.

In summary, if you wish to work with the adjuster on your own without a lawyer, keep in mind that the adjuster is probably trying to build ICBC’s defense case against you, while at the same time leaving the impression that he/she is looking out for your interests. The adjusters are trained to minimize claims, and so the initial dealings have a focus towards that purpose.