ICBC Claims: What You Should Know about Low Velocity Impact Claims

By Linas Antanavicius, Barrister & Solicitor

"It has been determined that the forces of impact were not sufficient to cause injury." This is a common sentence from a standard ICBC letter that many motor-vehicle accident victims receive from ICBC if the damage to a vehicle is less than $2000. This is the so-called Low Velocity Impact Program. The program was developed and is widely used by insurance companies in the United States. The essence of the program is the denial of compensation to people injured in less severe car accidents. In 1992, ICBC adopted the same program. If the damage to your vehicle is less than $2000, and you have a whiplash injury, it is very likely that ICBC will deny your claim and will not pay you any compensation for your injuries. My experience indicates that many people in such cases do not bother going to a lawyer and do not pursue their claims. However, courts do award compensation to injured people even though the accident is classified by ICBC as a low velocity impact claim. In such cases, it important to seek medical help and retain a lawyer.

Seeing Your Doctor
If you are injured in a low velocity impact accident, you should see your doctor and seek treatment. Tell your doctor everything about your injuries and pain that you have. Seeing your doctor and seeking treatment right away after the accident will help you in two ways. First, it will speed up your recovery. Second, it will help to accumulate medical evidence necessary to pursue and prove your claim in court. You should continue seeing your doctor and seeking treatment until you completely recover. Keep all medical receipts. They will be required to prove and recover medical expenses that you incur as a result of the accident.

Retaining a Lawyer
It is very important that you see a lawyer before you provide a statement to ICBC. If ICBC decides that your claim is a low velocity impact claim, you will not be able to settle your claim without starting a court action. This is because ICBC adjusters in most cases have no authority to settle such cases. ICBC takes low velocity impact cases very seriously, and retains experienced lawyers to defend these claims. For this reason it is very difficult to pursue low velocity impact claims on your own, and you should retain a lawyer. However, you should note that due to the large amount of legal work involved and relatively low remuneration, there are not that many lawyers that take low velocity impact cases. You may have to approach several lawyers to find one who will take your case.

How Much Does a Lawyer Cost?
Most lawyers in personal injury cases charge a percentage of what you collect. According to the law, 33.33% is the maximum percentage that a lawyer can charge for personal injury in motor vehicle accident cases in British Columbia. If a case is lost, you do not get a bill for legal fees.

Court Action
A court action can be started either in the Provincial (Small Claims) Court or in the Supreme Court. In the Small Claims Court you can claim up to $25,000, and in the Supreme Court you can claim over $25,000. If you have only a whiplash injury, which passed within several months, it is a good idea to start an action in the Small Claims Court in order to minimize your potential monetary exposure. If you loose a case in the Supreme Court or if the court awards less than $25,000, you may have to pay the legal costs of ICBC. Legal costs are the fees that ICBC pays to their lawyer. However, if a case is lost in the Small Claims Court, the losing party does not have to pay the costs of the winning party. Therefore, starting an action in the Small Claims Court combined with a contingency fee agreement practically eliminates your monetary risk related to legal costs if the case does not go the way you want it to go.