Hergott: Placing a value on accident injuries disrupting your life

To make a decision, you need to know how close the offer is to fair and how long it will take to achieve that fair compensation…

What is my ICBC claim worth? How long will it take to settle my claim?

I am asked these questions all the time.

Your ICBC adjuster has made an offer that could settle the claim immediately. To make a decision, you need to know how close the offer is to fair and how long it will take to achieve that fair compensation if you choose to reject it and hire a lawyer.

When you consider the one-third fees you will pay and the time it takes to get to a fair result, you might as well settle directly with ICBC if I tell you that your claim is worth anything close to what the ICBC adjuster is offering.

I am usually asked those questions at a time when there is ongoing pain, stiffness and other symptoms, and therapy is ongoing. There might or might not have been time missed from work.

You have had a rough few months since the crash, but that’s water under the bridge.

If ICBC is prepared to reimburse your income loss and expenses and pay you a few thousand dollars on top of that, you don’t want to be greedy.

It turns out that a few thousand dollars might well be fair financial compensation for crash injury symptoms that completely resolve within a few months.

That “few months” time frame is critical, though.

Let’s say I offer you $5,500 to participate in a study that requires you to have a toothache for the next three months, what would you say?

Many people work out of town, enduring harsh working conditions to make extra money.

If you look at enduring a toothache like enduring out-of-town, harsh working conditions, that offer might sound attractive to you.

Turn that “few months” into a “few years” though. You’d have to be a drug addict, desperate for your next fix, in order to accept $5,500 in exchange for agreeing to endure a toothache that lasts a few years.

With car crash symptoms, you can automatically turn a “few years” into “the rest of your life.”

If you are continuing to experience crash related symptoms two or three years after a collision, the medical science is that you are unlikely ever to fully recover.

Your symptoms don’t look like much to the outside world; no more than a toothache would.

A toothache, though, aches away regardless of what you do. Unlike a toothache, injuries to your neck and back interfere with your ability to do some of the things you used to be able to do and get worse when you participate in activities you used to enjoy.

If you are fortunate enough that your symptoms go on to 100 per cent, completely resolve within a few months of the crash, then that few thousand dollars is within a close enough range of fair that it is unlikely to be worthwhile to get a lawyer involved.

If not, and you end up with anything of an ongoing “toothache,” the scale of fair compensation (not including income loss and expenses) starts at a few “tens of thousands” of dollars, the upper end depending on how significant the ongoing symptoms are and how much of an impact those symptoms will have on your life on an ongoing, chronic basis.

I doubt there is anyone besides a strung out drug addict who would accept $50,000, $80,000 or event even $150,000 to participate in a study that would require you to endure life-long, chronic, symptoms, however minor they seem to those around you, even if you were able to continue working and continue to participate in most of the activities you enjoy.

Will ICBC offer compensation anywhere near those ranges to an unrepresented injury victim?

I’ve been in this business for20 years and I’ve never heard of it. Instead, they seem to hold onto their “few thousand dollars” range regardless of the prospect of a lifetime of chronic symptoms, which is why there is more than enough work for personal injury lawyers.

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