We all do our best to prevent accidents from happening, but sometimes even the most proactive, defensive driver can find themselves making a call to ICBC in the aftermath of an incident. Dealing with the subsequent repairs, buyouts and medical claims can often be a huge hassle, but there are a number of steps you can follow to help make the process as painless as possible.
First Things First
The sound of broken glass has silenced, the smell of fresh skidmarks are still fresh in your nose, and the wail of sirens has yet to pierce the newly silenced area.
So what do you do now?
If the incident was a relatively minor fender bender, make sure you and the other parties involved pull over to either the side of the road or into a nearby parking lot. Blocking traffic for a small accident is a great way to have fellow commuters start yelling at you and possibly allow you to make mistakes and forget to grab vital information before going off on your not-so-merry way. If the incident is more major, make sure to call 911 and request police (if you need traffic management), an ambulance (if someone was injured) or a firetruck (in case a fuel or coolant line burst and is now spewing fluid all over the road).
The next thing to do is get as much information as possible from the other party involved and any witness that stopped to help. From the other party’s car, get the make, model, year and licence plate number. You will also need to get the other driver’s name and driver’s licence number. Some people will also want to swap phone numbers, but I recommend against that. Many people will want to leave ICBC out of the equation and instead offer to pay directly for your repair bill. While I’m sure there are people who have every intention of doing so, a minor scuff on a bumper can easily jump into the multi-thousand dollar range, especially if anything was damaged behind the skin. It’s best to let ICBC deal with the situation directly, as the party deemed at fault can then pay them in order to avoid any surcharges. You will, however, want to grab the phone number and names of any witnesses nearby.
While the incident is still fresh in your mind, make a sketch of the intersection or road and create a quick diagram of what happened. Or if you’re like me and can’t draw for crap, write it all down instead. This way when you talk to ICBC about what happened, you have something for reference instead of trying to recall what happened.
Which brings up my next point: Call ICBC asap. The sooner you call, the faster you can have the situation dealt with. Give them all the information they ask for (DL#, what happened, the police report or fire department report reference, any witness’ numbers, etc.). They’ll also ask if you need the car towed and, if so, where to. If there’s any chance something might be broken, take them up on the offer. You don’t want to be driving around in a car that may have potential suspension or structural damage. Not only is it unsafe for you, it’s also potentially unsafe for those around you. If it’s after hours, the vehicle will be towed to a holding yard (usually a place like Clover Towing’s storage lot). Make sure you know where it’s going and let ICBC aware of where they can pick it up. If it’s during the day, you can have it towed directly to an ICBC-accredited repair shop or their own claim centre.
This is where cars go to see if they’re given a new lease on life or if they’ve been slated for the scrap yard. Multiple factors go into this decision but ultimately they fall under a couple catagories: how much damage was done, and is it worth repairing.
I’ve heard a couple different numbers over the years, and I know there are actual ICBC estimators on this site who can possibly clarify this for me, but once the damage dealt reaches a certain percentage of the car’s value, the vehicle is deemed to be a write off. Anything below that is considered to be repairable.
Repairing Your Vehicle
Great news, everybody! Your car is deemed repairable by ICBC! So… who do you take your vehicle to?
I recommend going through an ICBC-accredited shop, preferably one with Valet services. Not only will this shop be held accountable with ICBC should the repairs be substandard, but ICBC will also pay the full repair amount. If you decide to go to a friend’s shop that isn’t endorsed by ICBC, they will only pay out a lower value percentage of the repair bill. That’s not to say the vehicle wont be repaired properly, but it’s been my experience that a shop being paid a higher hourly bill is more inclined to spend the time to make sure the work has been done properly.
While the vehicle is being repaired, don’t call the shop ten times everyday asking when it will be done. Not only will that piss them off, it’s also possible that a repair is taking longer than expected because a necessary body part is not in a local warehouse. I once had to wait for a new bumper to come directly from a Honda warehouse in Japan because there were none in all of North America at the time. And no, they weren’t willing to pay for “overnight shipping.” The shop will call you when they have something to report or if it’s done. Otherwise, just let them be.
The other option you have is to take the repair value payout (minus a certain percentage) and attempt to do the fixes yourself. If it’s something simple like replacing a door skin, you can often find a used part at a scrap yard like Pick-a-Part for dirt cheap and then you can pocket the rest of the cash.
Uh Oh… She’s Dead
This is the part that many people dread, if not for the reasons you may think. Once your car has been deemed a write-off by ICBC, there are a couple important steps you should follow before you sign your name on any form of paperwork.
ICBC takes a few factors into determining an assessed value for your vehicle: Make/Model/Year, mileage, factory options (yes… sadly automatic transmissions are considered a desirable option, so they tend to factor that in as a positive), overall condition, after-market equipment, and recent repairs and maintenance.
If you’re OCD about keeping vehicle records, the last factor will work hugely in your favour. While they don’t count things like oil changes and basic maintenance into the overall value of the car, receipts for things like new tires, a recent transmission overhaul or a top end rebuild will ultimately be good for your payout. Basically anything that can increase the market value of your car.
That said, most aftermarket items aren’t included into the offer. That eBay CAI sitting in your engine bay or set of Work VS-XX moving around your car is going to have a minimal bearing on what ICBC will pay out. ICBC does allow you the option to replace aftermarket parts with OEM/stock parts, should you decide you’d like to keep some of the salvageable pieces.
So at this point you’re sitting across the desk from your adjuster, looking at the offer he or she has given you. It may be a number that you feel is a fair valuation of how your car was at before the incident, or it might just be high enough that taking the extra time to challenge it isn’t worth the hassle. Or, in some strange twist of fate, you might catch the adjuster on a supremely good day and get offered higher than market value. You never know.
But what happens if you feel the offer is too low?
In this case, you will need to scour the local ads (no, Florida or Ontario pricing has no impact on what ICBC will offer… different markets, different climates, different everything). Look on Craigslist, Kijiji, local newspapers, and anywhere else that has vehicle ads. Be sure to look for as close to the same vehicle as yours. This means same year, same trim level, similar mileage, etc. If you’re unable to find the exact same thing, do the best you can. Sometimes you can find a lower trim level and, if they’re going for a higher market price, you can use that as leverage for a bigger payout. Keep in mind that although dealership’s pricing is typically higher than private sellers, ICBC isn’t going to give you $10,000 for a ’94 Accord EX-R simply because “Used Car Dealership #1″ has it listed for that price. Market value means just that. Depending on the shape of your vehicle, you may get the high end of the spectrum or somewhere in the middle. Don’t expect top dollar simply because you want it. ICBC also offers an Arbitration & Mediation route if you’re unable to come to an agreeable settlement.
Also, don’t forget that unless you’re deemed not at fault, you’re still expected to pay your deductible.
Naturally no one gets into their car in the morning expecting to get into an accident. However, things do happen and that’s why we pay insurance. Drive defensively, stay out of other driver’s blind spots and avoid Richmond at all costs. I’m sure very few of you are unfamiliar with the advantage of having a dash cam at this point, but if you don’t currently have one, get one. Even if it’s the cheapest eBay one you buy, at the very least it can help ICBC determine whether someone rear ending you is genuinely 100% the other party’s fault and, more importantly, it can provide endless hours of entertainment for the rest of us while we watch other driver’s attempts at navigating our streets.
Many of us like to bitch about ICBC screwing the average driver over, but at the end of the day there’s no reason why they couldn’t be your best friend after an accident. If you don’t like the results, there are plenty of options you can pursue, many of which are posted directly on their website, and I’ve found that their customer service reps are also genuinely quite helpful and can give you tips on the best course of action to look into.
Drive safe, everyone!
RS 2014 Tech Team Head Moderator (HM) - Be sure to check out his TECH FORUMS.