Do ICBC adjusters discourage claimants from seeking legal advice?

Earlier this year, Law Society President Howard Berge, QC raised with ICBC President Nick Geer concerns from lawyers and their clients that some ICBC adjusters discourage claimants from seeking the assistance of lawyers.

According to those clients, ICBC adjusters told them that, if they sought the assistance of lawyers, any payments being made on their behalf (such as payments for chiropractic treatment or physiotherapy) would be discontinued until their claims were settled. On the other hand, if they continued to deal directly with the adjusters, their payments would be kept current.

The Law Society has expressed concern about reports of such practices. "In our view, adjusters who advise claimants that they should not seek a lawyer's advice and who threaten to withhold payments if they do would not meet the high standard of commercial morality that our community expects," Mr. Berge said in his letter to Mr. Geer. He asked ICBC to confirm that it does not have or promote such a policy and to advise the profession of how to best address complaints of such practices.

In his response, Mr. Geer noted that many files are amenable to settlement directly between ICBC and claimants, and that 66% of tort bodily injury claims are settled with unrepresented claimants. He said that ICBC would prefer to settle claims without the necessity of litigation, but recognizes that claimants are entitled to legal representation if they wish it.

"ICBC adjusters should not be discouraging claimants from seeking legal advice," he said.

Mr. Geer has advised the Law Society that, should any lawyer be concerned that a particular adjuster is discouraging claimants from seeking legal advice, the lawyer should bring the concerns to the attention of that adjuster's manager.

If a lawyer decides to take such a step, the Law Society also invites the lawyer, with client consent, to send a copy of any correspondence to the Society to ascertain the extent of the problem overall. This correspondence can be sent to Carmel Wiseman, Staff Lawyer, Policy and Legal Services, at 845 Cambie Street, Vancouver BC V6B 4Z9 or by email to cwiseman@lsbc.org.