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ICBC can benefit from serious illness or death

My typical client suffers from some sort of permanent pain arising from a car crash.

The pain symptoms never start out to be permanent, of course.  In the beginning, there’s optimism that the injuries will resolve, which is the happy reality for many people who have been in car crashes.

For others, though, the damage cannot be repaired, no matter how many treatments are endured, no matter how much time passes, and no matter how much exercising and stretching is done.

Imagine the emotional side of optimism fading and the realization of permanent pain setting in.

Permanent pain doesn’t just hit people emotionally.  It also often has some impact on a person’s income.  That impact can be quite significant.  Some people are unable to return to work at all.  Sometimes there can be a return to work, but at reduced hours.

Permanent pain, resulting in a permanent impact on income, can lead to very significant losses.

Let’s take a person who earned $50,000.00 per year before a crash, but is now only able to work 3/4 time because of permanent pain.  That’s a loss of $12,500.00 per year.  If the person is on the eve of retirement, the losses are not so great.  In contrast, what if they are only 35, with 30 years of work ahead of them?  Projected income loss, not including losses of pension and other benefits, is $375,000.00.

You might be thinking how great it would be to suffer such significant losses, because that would mean that the claim is significant.  Have you forgotten about the permanent pain that comes with it?  Perhaps you are not clear that the person will never actually receive full compensation for their losses because they will have to hire a lawyer to achieve a just result and that lawyer will be paid one-third of their claim.

Let’s say you are that 35 year old.  You have already come to terms with a lifetime of pain.  You have hired a lawyer to ensure you are fairly compensated.

As if things were not bad enough, you are hit with another of life’s nasties, you are diagnosed with cancer.

In most cases, nobody benefits from a cancer diagnosis.  The cancer victim is devastated, as are his or her family and friends.  Nobody is rubbing their hands together as if they have won a lottery…..

….except, perhaps, the insurance company being taken to task to pay fair compensation for the losses arising from the car crash.

What does the insurance company do?  They rush out to hire a cancer expert to provide an opinion giving the worst case scenario regarding the crash victim’s life expectancy.

If the insurance company’s “hired gun” cancer expert says that the crash victim might only live another two years, then the insurance company will argue for a $350,000.00 reduction in the loss of future income claim.

I’m not making this up.  With modified numbers, I have handled exactly this situation.

Talk about capitalizing on misfortune!

Of course, the crash victim might beat the odds and beat the cancer.  But then what?  If there is a trial and the insurance company’s life expectancy opinion is accepted by the court, then the crash victim is only compensated for two years of losses, not 30.

Does that seem just a little repugnant to you?

How about this one: The only misfortune that will benefit the insurance company more than a reduced life expectancy is if the crash victim actually dies before a case is resolved.  A death, in most cases, completely eliminates a claim.

I wish I had a silver lining to these dark clouds.  I don’t.

Published October 28, 2007 in the Kelowna Capital News

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