The appointment of a lawyer by ICBC to defend the claim differs somewhat between Claim Centers and Head Office Claims.
In Claim Centers, usually after the service of the Notice of Civil Claim, the ICBC adjuster completes a document known as a Suit Report, where the major issues of the case are set out. The Suit Report is forwarded to ICBC’s Litigation Services Division who reviews the Suit Report and assigns counsel to the defense of the file.
At Head Office, the handling adjuster completes a Counsel Assignment Form, and this is once again forwarded to the Litigation Services Division. The major difference, when compared to the Claims Centers, is that in addition to any major issues on the file (injuries, liability, etc…), the adjuster can provide a short-list of firms or specific lawyers he/she would like to see assigned. Hence, a Head Office adjuster can have some input into the counsel selection process.
Claims Centers are usually only able to recommend select lawyers or law firms where the file is of special precedential interest to ICBC or the Plaintiff lawyer is “targeted” by ICBC.
ICBC has a list of law firms and specific lawyers approved to do ICBC’s defense work. The lawyers can range from the reasonable to the very aggressive and not so reasonable. The defense lawyer, at the end of the case, is given a rating and assessment from the handling ICBC adjuster. These rating impacts on the amount of work the law firm may get in the future. Therefore, the defense lawyer is usually trying his/her best to impress ICBC. In some cases, this might mean that they will deliberately make a Plaintiff’s claim very difficult and will personally attack the Plaintiff.
The defense lawyer, in many cases, determines whether or not your claim will go smoothly or become a long, drawn out and hard fought battle. Unfortunately, you really have no control over who becomes the defense lawyer, so it really is the “luck of the draw”.
ICBC circulates a Request for Proposals (the “RFP”) inviting lawyers in British Columbia to bid on legal work for ICBC. The work on which bids are sought is primarily the defence of claims arising out of motor vehicle accidents and the prosecution of fraudulent claims.
The RFP states that ICBC will require that lawyers retained to act as part of a legal team for ICBC decline to act against it in bringing actions which include allegations of bad faith or claims for punitive, aggravated or exemplary damages. ICBC also requires that law firms that have agreed to act for ICBC in the prosecution of actions alleging fraud decline to defend any such actions.
ICBC requires counsel acting for it in defending injury claims to enter into a Strategic Alliance Agreement. Under the Strategic Alliance Agreement, the lawyer(s) agree to not act against ICBC in some kinds of lawsuits, although it does not prevent the lawyer(s) from acting for Plaintiffs against ICBC in other matters.
If you are looking for a lawyer to represent you, a consideration is whether or not he/she works for ICBC or his/her firm does ICBC work. A lawyer that is tied into ICBC may not take a strong position for you in fear that he/she may upset ICBC resulting in a decline in the amount of defense work assigned to his/her firm. Also, the lawyer may have a “defence mind” meaning that his/her view of the case are very conservative. The lawyer will then advocate for a low settlement or may allow ICBC to take liberties regarding the discovery process, medical assessments, etc…
If the lawyer does ICBC defense work, there is one advantage to you in that the lawyer should know how ICBC works.