Hergott: Insurance rates don’t go up because claimants hire lawyers

Lawyer’s don’t have any special magic that can increase your claim for tangible losses.

Paul HergottHave you seen ICBC’s pitch to the B.C. Utilities Commission in support of their latest rate increase request?

It points to an increase of injured victims hiring lawyers as one of the reasons for the increase.

It commits to combat that trend as follows: “ICBC will undertake research to further clarify elements that are key to the customer’s decision to retain legal counsel and to what extent ICBC may be able to influence those elements”.

Let me help you, ICBC: be fair.

Treat people fairly over the course of the claim, offer them fair, financial compensation to settle their claims and I will be out of a job.

It’s that easy.

Hiring a personal injury lawyer is a tough pill for an injured victim to swallow. It means resigning yourself to the reality that the very best you can achieve is about 65 per cent of what’s fair.

Why? By signing the lawyer’s contingency fee agreement you are signing away one-third of your claim to the lawyer in fees.

It is a myth that the value of your claim goes up because you hire a lawyer.

The reality is the amount of compensation that will fairly compensate you for your injuries and losses has nothing to do with whether or not you have legal representation.

Hiring a lawyer will have no impact on how much you pay, out of your pocket, for treatment expenses.

If you lose $10,000 in income because of your injuries, there is nothing a lawyer can do to change that.

If fair, financial compensation for your pain, discomfort and loss of enjoyment of activities is $50,000, once again that’s not something a lawyer has any control over.

These are all real, tangible losses. Lawyer’s don’t have any special magic that can increase your claim. Your claim is always—every time—only as large as the losses you have actually suffered.

Not only that, but hiring a lawyer is no guarantee that fairness will be achieved.

When you go up against an insurance company with the resources and litigiousness of ICBC, achieving a fair result is never a certainty.

Who, in their right mind would agree to pay a lawyer one-third of their claim for only the fighting chance of achieving a fair settlement if there was any reasonable prospect ICBC would treat them fairly without legal representation?

I wouldn’t have a job if ICBC would pay even remotely close to what’s fair. Why hire a lawyer if ICBC will give you 75, or even 70 per cent, of what’s fair to an unrepresented victim?

I wonder what the results would be if ICBC shared with us a comparison of average settlement amounts between represented and unrepresented claims.

(Actually, I don’t really wonder. I know that the settlement amounts with unrepresented claims would be drastically lower. Why?  Are unrepresented victims being screwed?)

My tenth anniversary of writing this column is coming up in January, 2017.

I haven’t counted each one, but I have been extremely diligent in pumping them out week after week and it has been approximately 500 weeks. So, this very column may well be my 500th.

Perhaps, ironically, I am coming full circle to the topic of my very first column, entitled: “It’s not about screwing the insurance company”.

A brief excerpt from that Jan. 7, 2007 column reads: “This leads to the nasty reality that my job is really not about screwing an insurance company. Rather, it is about ensuring my clients do not, themselves, get screwed.”

So how do you achieve your goal of reducing the number of injured victims hiring lawyers?

Be fair, ICBC. Simply, be fair.