Calling car accidents disorienting is a bit of an understatement. In the moments following an accident, you’re jarred, confused, and probably a little panicked. With all the commotion going on around you, it’s difficult to think straight. You start to get a little overwhelmed. You don’t know whom to call, and you don’t know what to do. First, take a deep breath. Make sure you’re unharmed. Check on the other driver if you’re able. Then you can start thinking about reporting the accident to ICBC and what steps to take after.
Your Legal Responsibility
In the province of British Columbia, there are two instances in which you’re legally obligated to report a collision to ICBC. The first is if you were a driver in a car accident anywhere in the province. While minor scrapes and fender benders don’t seem like a big deal, it’s still important to report them. Otherwise, the other driver could accuse you of a hit-and-run after the matter. While reporting the accident runs the risk of raising your premiums, it’s a much better alternative to losing a hit-and-run lawsuit.
The other instance is if you are a passenger in a vehicle that gets into an accident and you’re injured as a result. If your injuries are minor, it may not be as pressing a concern but to be on the safe side, it’s recommended that you report it anyway. Many injuries aren’t immediately present. Whiplash, in particular, which affects your soft tissue, might not cause you pain immediately following the accident. It’s best to see a doctor for an examination and proceed accordingly.
While you’re legally obligated to report the accident to ICBC, you’re in no way required to file a claim afterward. That’s well within your rights, but reporting a claim is often a difficult process. If that’s the route you’d like to go, make sure you have adequate legal representation before filing with an adjuster. It’ll save you a lot of time and hassle down the line.
How to File a Claim
There are various deadlines for reporting the accident, giving a statement, and applying for benefits. Ideally, you report the accident within 24 hours. It’s understood that extenuating circumstances often prevent this, especially if you are injured in the crash. Make your best faith effort to report the accident as soon as you’re able.
ICBC typically asks where and when it happened, the plate numbers of all vehicles involved, driver’s license and insurance information, and the police file number if the authorities reported to the scene. They may also ask for descriptions of your injuries and for any potential witness information.
Within 30 days, you should give your written statement to ICBC regarding the accident and how it occurred. If you have a lawyer, rely on their expertise as you draft your statement. Make sure your answers are thorough and factually accurate. Anything you say or write can be used against you if the liability for the accident is up for debate.
You have 90 days to turn in your application for ICBC benefits. Benefits assist with lost income, medical expenses, and some housekeeping expenses. Again, a lawyer is a big help here. They are better equipped to navigate you through the application process. This way, you have the best chance of receiving benefits without having to proceed through a lengthy and frustrating appeals process.
Taking the Right Steps
Don’t leave yourself legally liable after an accident, especially if you’re injured or are going to seek benefits from ICBC. Always report the accident and document it as thoroughly as you’re able. Remember that a legal representative is frequently your best bet when it comes to receiving the benefits you need to get your life back on track. If you do your research beforehand and team up with a qualified lawyer, you’re well on your way to a successful claim.