Do I need a lawyer?


This is a question that many people ask themselves after they had been injured in a motor vehicle accident and present ICBC with a claim. In many cases the real question is: Is it worth it for me to hire a lawyer? In cases where liability for the accident is clearly in your favor a lawyer’s fees are typically a percentage of the settlement or court award. That percentage can sometimes vary depending on the amount of work completed and at what stage in the proceeding the case is resolved.

Without a lawyer you are most likely to receive an offer from ICBC that does not represent full value of the claim as most ICBC adjusters are encouraged to settle claims for as little as possible. Using a lawyer will almost always get you a better settlement and often includes damages for more than just pain and suffering, past income loss and recovery of your out-of-pocket expenses. A good personal injury lawyer will also assess your claim for other potential losses as well.

Here’s one way it’s often done:

If your injuries have left you with a limited or reduced ability to work, then your lawyer should be asking you the following questions:

  1. Have your injuries rendered you less capable overall from earning income from all types of employment?
  2. Are you less marketable or attractive as an employee to potential employers?
  3. Have you lost the ability to take advantage of all job opportunities which might otherwise have been open to you, had you not been injured?
  4. Are you less valuable to yourself as a person capable of earning income in a competitive labour market?

If you answered “yes” to any one of the above questions you may be entitled to an additional sum to compensate you for a potential future loss of income, something the courts refer to as a loss of capacity to earn income or loss of future earning capacity. Your lawyer should be investigating and assessing whether or not you qualify for compensation for these additional losses.

The courts in BC have adopted several methods for assigning a dollar value to claims for loss of capacity.  One method is to postulate a minimum annual income loss for the injured person’s remaining years of work, to multiply the annual projected loss times the number of years remaining, and to calculate a present value of this sum.  Another method is to award the injured person a sum equivalent to their annual income for one or more years or to award the present value of some nominal percentage loss per annum applied against their expected annual income.

Because the assessment of these losses can be complex, it’s essential to retaining a lawyer well-versed in the assessment of these awards. Without a lawyer you can almost guarantee ICBC won’t be offering you anything under this particular area of loss. The necessity of having a lawyer is obvious.

If you have questions about potential future income losses arising from injuries sustained in accidents in B.C. or simply want to discuss your case, give me a call at 604-580-7080. I offer a free 1-hour initial consultation.

Perry Armitage, Partner