ICBC implemented the Low Velocity Impact Program (“LVI Program”) back in the early to mid-1990s. ICBC would not pay any claims where they thought the accident was fairly minor. The theory applied by ICBC was that if there was a minor accident how could someone suffer injury in that accident? Hence, the program soon was nicknamed the “no bash / no cash” program.
ICBC applied a number of exceptions to the LVI Program including allowing claims where an individual had a pre-accident condition that predisposed him/her to injury, or where there was an “objective” injury (eg. broken bone, herniated disc, muscle spasm, etc…).
Of course, the medical literature indicates that there is no correlation between the severity of injury and the severity of the accident. Some individuals can walk away from very severe accidents whereas others may die. There are just too many factors that determine whether or not someone will be injured in an accident to correlate injury to the severity of an accident.
The LVI Program also has no sound basis in physics. In any accident there is both momentum and energy to be dissipated. To avoid technicalities, we don’t need to understand the distinction between momentum and energy, we only need to understand that both are present and that the amount of each is determined solely by the mass and velocity of the vehicles at the moment of impact.
The only way momentum and energy can be dissipated is by transferring them to some other object. For example, brakes dissipate the car’s energy by converting it into heat. In an accident where a vehicle crumples, some of the momentum and energy are transferred to the structure of the vehicle and produce the deformation seen. If the vehicle does not crumple, then all of the momentum and energy is transferred to something else, such as the occupants of the vehicle. Car makers know this, and deliberately design their vehicles to crumple as much as possible in severe accidents to protect the occupants.
All other things being equal, physics tell us that:
The more damage to the vehicle, the less injury to the passengers;
The less damage to the vehicle, the more injury to the passengers.
Initially, ICBC ran lengthy and costly jury trials and had tremendous success in these trials. The Courts and the legislature responded to the LVI Program by allowing a number of different ways in which to get around a jury trial. As a result, the LVI Program has lost a lot of its initial success.
After the initial jury successes, ICBC expanded the program to include a larger number of accidents into the LVI Program. For example, ICBC felt that many sideswipe type collisions, where the vehicle damage was in the thousands of dollar range, could not cause injury.
Currently, there are several ways of getting around a jury trial:
- The Courts have granted judgment in favour of an injured party under summary trial (Rule 9) using only Affidavits without a full jury trial.
- Rule 15 was implemented which allows an expedited trial with limitations on the time allowed for examination for discovery and without juries for claims generally under $100,000; and
- The legislature allows a personal injury worth less than $25,000 to be tried in Small Claims Court without a jury.
Initially, the program was applied across ICBC with little or no exceptions. This meant that if you wanted compensation from ICBC you would have to go all the way to trial. As the program has been watered down somewhat with time and lack of success on the part of ICBC, often times ICBC initially denies the claim under the LVI Program but then later decides the case is outside the program. However, there is no guarantee that that will happen to your claim.
Therefore, as it stands, if ICBC sends you a letter suggesting that your claim has been denied because of the minor nature the accident, you should not take that as being the answer to whether you have a personal injury claim against ICBC. It is recommended that you consult a lawyer before deciding whether or not to pursue an injury claim.
In summary, you do not have to accept ICBC’s suggestion that you have no claim simply because the accident was minor. If you suffered injury in a car accident and you wish to pursue compensation, there are avenues available to do so. However, if ICBC classified your accident as falling within the LVI Program, you can expect that ICBC will take a harder line and defend the claim more vigorously than other types of claims. Be prepared to go all the way to trial, if necessary.
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