The decision on when to settle your ICBC claim is the biggest decision you will make. There is no easy answer.
ICBC will often attempt to settle your claim very soon after the accident. It is to ICBC’s benefit to close files early and save administrative and defense costs. Also, the earlier you settle the ICBC claim, the less ICBC generally pays.
Remember, once you settle your claim, you will not be entitled to any further compensation from ICBC. This is because as part of your settlement, ICBC will ask that you sign a final Release and that Release will end your entitlement to any further compensation from ICBC. If it turns out your injuries are more severe than you otherwise thought when you settled your claim, it’s very unlikely you will be able to continue your claim because of the Release. Only in relatively rare circumstances will the Court overlook the Release to allow you to continue forward with your ICBC claim. An example would be where the adjuster took complete advantage of you making the settlement unconscionable.
Overall, you should not settle your ICBC claim until you are at least back to your pre-accident level of work/activities and you have largely recovered from your injuries. Also, you do not want to rely on your doctor’s opinion that you will recover fully within a few months because if it turns out you do not recover, then you would have settled for less than what you deserve.
Hence, in most situations where you are self-represented, you want to make sure that you are largely recovered from your injuries before settling the claim. You can always settle before you are recovered so long as ICBC also pays you for the future problems that are anticipated. Unfortunately, ICBC rarely pays out a claim based on ongoing future problems unless a lawyer is involved. Even then, ICBC often resists payment of future losses.
The first exception to the above general rules is related to the new no-fault scheme of ICBC applying to accidents after April 1, 2019. If your claim is deemed a “minor injury” by ICBC and/or the CRT, your pain-and-suffering award is capped at $5,500, adjusted for inflation. Therefore, if the progression of the injuries look like your claim will always remain a “minor injury” and there is no continual wage loss, you can certainly settle out the tort/injury claim portion leaving open Part VII benefits to cover further treatment expenses. Waiting for recovery will not increase the $5,500 non-pecuniary damage cap.
Another exception to the above general rule is where the limitation period of two years after the accident is approaching and you do not want to retain a lawyer to start a lawsuit to extend the claim. You need to settle before two years after the accident or you have no claim any more.
If you are untrained in ICBC matters, when presented with an offer from ICBC, your best approach is to at least consult an ICBC personal injury lawyer before accepting the offer from ICBC. Personal injury lawyers most often give a free initial consultation, so it doesn’t cost anything to present a settlement offer to a legal expert. At the very least, you will get a good idea of what the potential claim is worth and then you can weigh the various options as to whether to try to settle your ICBC claim directly with ICBC or hire a lawyer. If the personal injury lawyer is trying to charge you for the initial consultation, go somewhere else.
If you have hired a lawyer and are pursuing the claim through litigation, as a trial date approaches, often there is a need to resolve your case regardless of how far you have recovered. Your lawyer would be able to best address the disadvantages vs. the advantages of settling at that point.
In summary, the answer to when to settle your ICBC claim is very complicated. If you are self-represented, you can try to settle your ICBC claim for a reasonable dollar if you are approaching full recovery. Alternatively, if your condition has not stabilized but ICBC is prepared to compensate you for future problems, then you may wish to settle. Do not try to settle your ICBC claim early on if your injuries are ongoing and the future is uncertain. Also, do not settle your ICBC claim if your injuries are ongoing and the ICBC offer is based on your injuries being fully recovered or likely to full recover shortly. The last thing you want to do is settle early for a low dollar figure and end up with serious, life-long injuries.