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