Making a Vehicle Damage Claim (Script 186)
|The Dial-A-Law library is prepared by lawyers and gives practical information on many areas of law in British Columbia. This script gives information only, not legal advice. If you have a legal problem or need legal advice, you should speak to a lawyer. For the name of a lawyer to consult, call the Lawyer Referral Service at 604.687.3221 in the lower mainland or 1.800.663.1919 elsewhere in British Columbia.|
This script explains how you make an insurance claim with the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (called ICBC) if your vehicle is damaged in an accident. It also explains what happens if you damage another vehicle, and how accidents affect your insurance rates.
- 1 Is vehicle insurance compulsory in BC?
- 2 What should you do if you’re in a vehicle accident?
- 3 Should you call the police?
- 4 Who will assess the vehicle damage?
- 5 Who decides who caused an accident?
- 6 Who pays for the repairs?
- 7 What happens if your vehicle is too badly damaged to repair?
- 8 Do you have to accept the amount ICBC offers?
- 9 What should you do if you disagree with ICBC’s decision about who is at fault?
- 10 What if you ask ICBC to review the decision?
- 11 What if you sue in court?
- 12 Will your insurance premiums go up?
- 13 Can you pay for the damage yourself without involving ICBC?
- 14 What should you do if you have a complaint with ICBC?
- 15 Will your insurance cover you if you were drinking and driving?
- 16 Where can you find more information?
Is vehicle insurance compulsory in BC?
Basic vehicle insurance is compulsory. Everyone who owns a motor vehicle in BC must have basic vehicle insurance, called Autoplan, from ICBC. If you cause or are at fault for an accident that damages someone else’s vehicle, Autoplan will pay that other person for the damage. This insurance is called “third-party legal liability” coverage.
You may also buy optional collision insurance from ICBC or a private insurance company. It pays for damage to your vehicle—whether or not you were at fault—minus the deductible amount. Your insurance may also pay if your parked vehicle is hit by an unknown driver.
What should you do if you’re in a vehicle accident?
Report the accident to ICBC as soon as you can. In the Lower Mainland, call ICBC’s Dial-A-Claim Centre at 604.520.8222. Elsewhere, call 1.800.910.4222. You can also report the accident online. If you bought your collision insurance from a private insurance company, report your accident to them too.
Should you call the police?
If someone was injured in the accident or the damage is likely to be $2,000 or more, you must report the accident to the police.
Who will assess the vehicle damage?
Many vehicle damage claims are settled without having to visit an ICBC claim centre. If your claim qualifies, you can go directly to a c.a.r. VALET repair shop for a vehicle damage estimate, and get the repairs done at the same location (There are more than 400 c.a.r. bodyshops in BC.) ICBC will tell you if your claim qualifies for this service when you report your claim.
Other times, even if you can still drive your vehicle, Dial-A-Claim may give you an appointment to take it to the nearest claim centre, where an estimator will look at it. They fill in a form listing the repairs needed. Then you take your vehicle, with the estimator’s form, to a repair shop you choose.
If you can’t drive your vehicle after the accident and it has been towed to a storage lot, ICBC will arrange to have it towed directly to a claim centre. In the Greater Vancouver area, it may be towed to ICBC’s Central Estimating Facility first, and then to a body shop for the repairs.
Who decides who caused an accident?
An ICBC adjuster decides who was at fault after reviewing the details of the accident. Often, you may not actually meet the adjuster and, instead, may deal with them by phone.
Who pays for the repairs?
It depends on who caused the accident and whether you have collision insurance. If the accident wasn’t your fault, ICBC may pay the whole repair bill. If you caused the accident, but you have collision insurance with ICBC, you’ll have to pay the deductible, and ICBC will pay the rest. If you don’t have collision insurance and you caused the accident, you will have to pay to repair your own vehicle. And you will have to pay any towing and storage charges. If you don’t have collision insurance and ICBC hasn’t decided whether you were at fault, you may have to pay the repair shop, then try to get ICBC to pay you back later, when it decides who caused the accident.
What happens if your vehicle is too badly damaged to repair?
If you vehicle is wrecked, it’s called a write-off or a total loss. You don’t have the choice to get it repaired. If the cost of repairs is more than the current market value of your vehicle, ICBC will calculate the value based on its market value before the accident. The value depends on several things, including your vehicle’s make, model, age, condition, upgrades and similar things. Then, if the other driver was at fault or you have collision coverage, ICBC will pay you that amount. But if you still owe money to a bank (or someone else), and they had registered a lien against your vehicle, ICBC will pay the bank what you owe them and then pay the rest to you.
Do you have to accept the amount ICBC offers?
No. If you’re not happy with the offer, you can ask the material damage manager at the centre handling your claim to review it.
If you’re still not satisfied, the Insurance (Vehicle) Regulation allows you to use arbitration for your dispute. If you and ICBC can’t agree on the choice of an arbitrator, the British Columbia Arbitration and Mediation Institute can appoint an arbitrator. The arbitrator must promptly meet or communicate with both you and ICBC, gather relevant information, and set a date for a decision. The arbitrator’s written decision with full reasons will be sent to you by registered mail. The costs of the arbitration are shared equally between you and ICBC. If you want to use arbitration, you must apply within two years after the loss or damage to your vehicle occurred.
What should you do if you disagree with ICBC’s decision about who is at fault?
You have two choices:
- Ask ICBC to review its decision.
- Sue in court.
What if you ask ICBC to review the decision?
If you don’t think you should have been found fully or partly at fault, you can ask a claim manager to review your case. If you’re still not satisfied, you can apply for a Claims Assessment Review, known as a CAR. You have 60 days after ICBC tells you its decision on who was at fault in the accident to apply for a review. The ICBC website has more detail on the CAR program—it’s not always available.
What if you sue in court?
You can sue the other driver in Small Claims Court, or Supreme Court if your claim is for more than the $25,000 limit in Small Claims Court. You may want to sue for any deductible you had to pay on your collision coverage or, if you had no collision coverage, to recover the cost of your vehicle repairs or the write-off value of your vehicle. ICBC will normally represent the person you are suing. The judge would decide if you win and the amount you receive.
Will your insurance premiums go up?
If ICBC decides that you were more than 25% at fault for an accident that results in a claim—either by you or the other driver—ICBC will usually increase your insurance premium the next year. If you have another claim, the increase will be even greater. Also, if ICBC finds you at least 50% at fault in 3 crashes within 3 years, and they all result in claims, you’ll have to pay an additional “multiple crash premium” of $1,000. And for each additional at-fault crash within the 3 years, you’ll have to pay an additional fee of $500.
Can you pay for the damage yourself without involving ICBC?
If you cause a small accident, you may choose to pay for any damage to your vehicle and/or the other vehicle yourself to avoid higher insurance premiums. But you should discuss this with the ICBC adjuster for your file, as the increase in your insurance cost may be small if you’re an ICBC Roadstar customer.
What should you do if you have a complaint with ICBC?
If you have a complaint about how ICBC handles your claim, contact its Customer Relations department at 604.982.6210 in the Lower Mainland or toll-free 1.800.445.9981 elsewhere. A Customer Relations Advisor will help you. If this doesn’t work and you still feel you haven’t been treated fairly, you may be able to proceed to ICBC’s Fairness Commissioner (the ICBC website has details).
Will your insurance cover you if you were drinking and driving?
If you were drinking and driving or under the influence of drugs when you had your accident, or you’re convicted of a Criminal Code offence related to motor vehicles, you’ll have problems claiming insurance because you may have broken the rules of your insurance contract. If you’re charged with any criminal offence relating to a vehicle accident, you should consult a lawyer. If you have any questions about your insurance, ask the adjuster or your lawyer. Also check script 190 on “Drinking and Driving”.
Where can you find more information?
- See the ICBC website.
- If you’ve been injured in an accident, check scripts 185 on “Insurance Benefits and Compensation for Accident Victims” and 188 on “Making a Personal Injury Claim”.
[updated May 2016]
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