Book shows that you really ought to find out what ICBC does not nec­es­sar­ily want you to know

Vancouver Sun - - BUSINESS - DON CAYO [email protected] van­cou­ver­sun. com What ICBC Does Not Want You To Know is free for clients and oth­ers who ask for it at Mus­sio’s down­town of­fice. Sim­i­lar in­for­ma­tion is also avail­able at icb­cad­vice. com

It turns out that What ICBC Does Not Want You To Know in­cludes a lot of in­for­ma­tion you might one day be glad to have. This slim new book, self- pub­lished by Van­cou­ver per­sonal in­jury lawyer Wes­ley Mus­sio, up­dates an ear­lier publi­ca­tion. It is in some ways an ex­ten­sion of his wife’s web­site, which was once called fight­icbc. com but is now icb­cad­vice. com. To­gether the books and web pages seem to be a sharp thorn in ICBC’s side.

ICBC has sued Mus­sio and his wife Penny, who runs the web­site, chal­leng­ing if not what they say then at least the la­bels they put on it. Although the cou­ple won the last round in court and also changed the name of both the book and the web­site to un­der­line that they’re not af­fil­i­ated with ICBC, the de­ci­sion is still be­ing ap­pealed.

De­spite a habit of pre­fer­ring David to Go­liath, I started read­ing this book with reser­va­tions. I’m al­ways skep­ti­cal about self- pub­lished works by prac­ti­tion­ers in any field. Too of­ten they just shill for their trade in gen­eral, and their own ser­vices in par­tic­u­lar.

But, while Mus­sio does urge hir­ing a lawyer for some deal­ings with B. C.’ s mo­nop­oly auto in­surer, such cases are rel­a­tively rare and in­volve cir­cum­stances fraught with enough ob­vi­ous and not- so- ob­vi­ous pit­falls to over­whelm most do- it- your­self lit­i­gants.

He also ad­dresses how much le­gal help should cost.

Rec­og­niz­ing that most peo­ple re­tain lawyers on con­tin­gency to fight in­surance bat­tles, he spells out dif­fer­ences be­tween set­tle­ment- split­ting for­mu­las he con­sid­ers fair and those he does not.

As for the straight­for­ward ICBC deal­ings that cus­tomers are most likely to en­counter, he of­fers what strikes me as even- handed ad­vice on pro­ceed­ing with or with­out a lawyer. His rec­om­men­da­tions are of­ten cir­cum­stance-spe­cific, but two gen­eral themes emerge.

First, don’t lie, ex­ag­ger­ate, em­bel­lish or omit rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion. For in­jury claims, this in­cludes even — or es­pe­cially — pre- ex­ist­ing med­i­cal is­sues. ICBC ad­justers and in­ves­ti­ga­tors are pros, and they’ll likely find out if you fib, whether ex­plic­itly or by omis­sion. This makes set­tle­ment prospects worse, not bet­ter.

Se­condly, don’t ever as­sume the ICBC em­ploy­ees you deal with or the doc­tors they send you to will be on your side. Their job, he says, is to min­i­mize ICBC’s pay­outs, and their fo­cus is al­most cer­tain to be on find­ing things that bol­ster the case for paying less.

So an­swer all the ques­tions and com­ply with all the pro­ce­dures you have to — he tells you what they are. But don’t vol­un­teer in­for­ma­tion, and don’t try to spin the facts in ways you might think will work your ad­van­tage. As well, be aware that if your claim is big enough and goes on long enough, you’ll prob­a­bly be se­cretly tested — tech­niques like ask­ing if cer­tain pok­ing and prod­ding hurts when the ICBC doc­tor knows it won’t, or in ex­treme cases, even putting you un­der video sur­veil­lance.

In some cases, the book chal­lenges con­ven­tional wis­dom. For ex­am­ple, Mus­sio ad­vises re­port­ing triv­ial fen­der- ben­ders, even if you think it would be cheaper to pay for the re­pair rather than pur­sue a claim that will drive up your in­surance pre­mium. He ar­gues that ICBC can get a lower rate for re­pair work than the rest of us can ne­go­ti­ate, and you can al­ways opt to pay the bill your­self and thus negate any im­pact on pre­mi­ums.

De­spite a para­noid- sound­ing ti­tle, Mus­sio doesn’t ex­pect ICBC per­son­nel to break the law. But he warns they may ig­nore it at times, per­haps mak­ing un­war­ranted as­sump­tions — for ex­am­ple, equat­ing a road­side sus­pen­sion with be­ing im­paired — or bluff­ing or bul­ly­ing claimants to com­ply with de­mands not re­quired by law.

Much of the book is aimed at spe­cific types of claims, and th­ese are too numer­ous and — touch wood — too un­re­lated to my ex­pe­ri­ence for me to re­mem­ber them all, let alone re­cap them in this col­umn. But, although the book isn’t par­tic­u­larly well writ­ten — it’s not a grip­ping read — it is well or­ga­nized, mean­ing you should be able to find rel­e­vant ad­vice quickly if or when you need it.

So I think I’ll keep my copy close at hand, maybe even in the glove com­part­ment.

NICK PROCAYLO/ PNG FILES

A worker ex­am­ines a car at the ICBC’s dam­aged ve­hi­cle lot at the south end of the Queens­bor­ough Bridge in Rich­mond. A new book ex­poses as­pects of the way the ICBC deals with claimants that might sur­prise the av­er­age reader.

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