After you have completely recovered from your injuries or the medical evidence has indicated that you have recovered as much as you will ever recover, it will be time to discuss the settlement of your case with your personal injury lawyer.
Recognize that because it can take a long time for you to recover or stabilize the beginning of settlement negotiations often do not occur until years after the crash. Therefore, at Hoogbruin & Company we recommend and advise our clients to be patient and not rush to settle their cases. Once you settle your case you cannot reopen it. Therefore, at Hoogbruin & Company we want to ensure that you have recovered or stabilized so that we can properly assess your case, recommend the settlement strategy, and take your instructions.
Of course, at all times you are the boss. If you grow impatient with the process you can always instruct us to try to settle the case sooner, but recognize that ICBC is a very sophisticated insurance company and they will know that you are looking to settle the case sooner than may otherwise be advisable. ICBC will try to take advantage of that knowledge.
When the case is ready to settle we will ensure that we have all necessary updated medical information and income loss information to assess your case. We will meet with you and provide you with our views on an appropriate settlement strategy and if you agree with that strategy you will provide us with instructions.
We will then enter into negotiations with ICBC. Each case is unique. Sometimes the case can settle quickly after the beginning of negotiations. Other times the negotiations can be protracted and have months or even years between offers. Sometimes negotiations fail entirely and the case goes to trial.
As part of the negotiation process there will often be a formal mediation. This is an opportunity for the decision-makers, you and the ICBC adjuster, together with all the lawyers to spend a morning or afternoon together trying to settle the case. The process is supervised by a mediator. Statistically cases have about a 70% chance of settling at mediation or shortly thereafter.
Most cases settle. Only a small percentage of cases go to trial. Of all the lawsuits commenced in the Supreme Court of British Columbia that involve car crash cases 95% settle before going to trial. That percentage does not include all the cases that settle even before the lawsuits are started. Therefore, the vast majority of cases settle before going to trial. The reason most cases settle is that the Judges who write the Supreme Court Rules write the rules with the goal of forcing parties to settle before going to trial. Clearly, those rules are effective.
However, if yours is one of the few cases that cannot settle, then we proceed to trial. Trial can take a few days or a number of weeks depending upon the complexity of the case and the issues that need to be resolved. Trial can be with a Judge alone or with a Judge and a Jury.
After trial either party has the right to appeal to the British Columbia Court of Appeal but the law is such that a successful appeal is difficult, so appealing a trial verdict is a rare event.
The final step, after trial or appeal, is the resolution of the Bill of Costs. The successful party in a lawsuit is entitled to a contribution to the legal fees they had to pay and reimbursement of most of the expenses they incurred. Contribution to legal fees and the reimbursement of expenses are set out in a document called a Bill of Costs. Most of the time the Bill of Costs is resolved by agreement with ICBC. However, if the Bill of Costs cannot be resolved by agreement then we will proceed to court for a determination.
Recognize that the above is a very general overview of the process. Each case has its unique aspects that can require its own unique roadmap.