Initial Meeting at ICBC
After making a dial-a-claim report, ICBC often will arrange a face-to-face meeting for you with an adjuster to review the vehicle damage, obtain a statement on the accident circumstances and address the injury claim.
If liability is straight forward against the other driver and there is no injury claim, there is no real risk of going to the ICBC face-to-face meeting. If you have an injury claim, however, you may wish to avoid the meeting. You can do that by having your vehicle damage inspected at an ICBC certified repair shop, providing a written statement without a meeting or sending a family member or friend into ICBC for the vehicle inspection.
If you plan to not hire a lawyer and deal with the claim yourself, the initial meeting is unavoidable. ICBC will insist that you come in for a meeting.
There is no question that when you first meet with the ICBC adjuster, he/she is not only trying to find out generally about the injury and damage claim but is also trying to establish evidence to minimize the amount of the ultimate payout to you. Hence, when you show up at the claim center, the ICBC adjuster is trying to get full access to information in order to ultimately reduce any amount ICBC has to pay to you at the end of the claim. After all, a central role of any adjuster is to minimize pay-outs. If you do not show up to the meeting, the adjuster does not get that same advantage.
The biggest negative about not showing up to the ICBC adjuster meeting, however, is that some adjusters personalize cases and may give you a more difficult time because you have not allowed them full access to information.
In terms of getting an estimate for vehicle damage, you can either attend to an ICBC claim center and see an estimator or you can go to a ICBC certified repair shop. There are a number of ICBC certified repair shops that will do estimates for ICBC, so you may never have to step foot inside the ICBC claimcenter. Note, however, that ICBC tries to force the face-to-face meeting if an injury claim is involved so there will be some push back from ICBC to get the face-to-face meeting.
Even if there is an issue over who is at fault for the accident, you have no legal requirement to go in to see an adjuster. Rather, you can simply provide your own written statement to the adjuster, which can be used by the adjuster to assess liability. Some adjusters may penalize you for not showing up to the meeting by taking a hard line against you on liability.
If you have an injury claim, you can provide your own short handwritten statement to the adjuster about the accident and injuries. You then need to fill out an Accident Benefit Claim Form (CL-22) if you want to pursue your entitlement to disability and medical benefits, which are called Part VII benefits.
The ICBC adjusters are trained to obtain detailed statements, which can later be used against you in an injury claim. The ICBC adjuster will cover off pre-accident health issues with you. If you do not disclose everything, you can be rest assured the ICBC lawyer or adjuster will later suggest that there are issues with your credibility because of the non-disclosure. Further, if you do not disclose fully all of your injuries at the time of the statement, you will later be accused of fabricating new injuries or ICBC will suggest they are not all related to the accident due to late onset of the injuries. In other words, the statement is a key piece of evidence that is used against you later in your injury claim and that is why ICBC in interested in having you sit down and sign a long statement at that initial meeting.
If you are prepared to allow this statement taking exercise to happen, be very careful. Be as accurate as possible when giving your statement and provide full details on the issues covered. Do not sign a statement if it contains any errors, as you will only be penalized later if you try to backpeddle from what is written in the statement.
When filling out the Accident Benefit Claim Form (CL-22), you are asked a number of 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 say you may be fabricating a new injury or the injury came on too late after the accident to be related.
The other thing ICBC likes you to do is sign blank authorizations, which allow them access to anything they want, whether it be medical documents, wage loss documents or school records. It is strongly recommended that you do not sign blank authorizations, but simply tell the adjuster that if a specific document is needed, the adjuster can send an authorization form at that time and you will consider each request individually. In other words, if ICBC wants to get records from the hospital where you attended after the accident, they can get you to sign an authorization directed only to that hospital.
If you sign a blank authorization, you are almost guaranteed that ICBC will be ordering clinical records dating back many years before the accident. The adjuster will have a chance to check out a lot of personal information about you that is completely unrelated to the injury claim. That is why it is a bad idea to sign blank authorizations.
Overall, your only obligation is to provide a statutory statement to ICBC, which can be as little as providing your name, one sentence on the accident and a few words about injuries or even less for that matter. In other words, there is no obligation to provide any details in the statement. The rule of thumb is the less ICBC knows the better off you are. The only time it’s advantageous to disclose information to ICBC is if it helps you advance your claim at the time of settlement, helps you get a money advance on your claim or it helps get funding for rehabilitation or disability benefits through Part VII coverage.
In summary, if you wish to attend at the initial adjuster interview, 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 this interview is for your benefit. The adjusters are trained to minimize claims, if possible, and so the initial meeting will likely have a focus towards that purpose.