Adjusters often use financial and emotional manipulation to minimize the value of ICBC settlement offers. Based on the ICBC Negotiation Tactics series published by Paul Hergott, here are the highlights of strategies behind ICBC settlement offers:
24 Hour Deadlines
I was recently consulted by a young lady who was given a 24 hour deadline to accept an ICBC offer, with the consequence that the offer would be reduced if she did not accept it.
It’s one of the “oldest tricks in the book”, and had the desired effect. The young lady felt pressured, buying into the tactic and frantically reaching out for legal advice. It can be difficult arranging a consultation with a lawyer within a 24 hour window!
Had she not connected with me or another personal injury lawyer, the tactic might well have been successful in manipulating her into accepting an offer that wasn’t even in the ballpark of fair.
Providing a deadline for acceptance is a tactic that is used again and again and again by ICBC and other insurance companies, and it’s almost always complete nonsense.
If they are prepared to pay a certain amount of financial compensation for injuries and losses on a Tuesday, why would the passage of another 24 hours (or any other time frame) have any impact on that?
This is a classic tactic in an ICBC claim negotiation. They’ll start negotiations with lowball offers at $5,000.00 or less for claims where fair compensation is $40,000.00 or more. By doing so, they set the stage of the negotiation. The unsuspecting injury victim knows enough to “not accept ICBC’s first offer”, and feels like they got a good deal when ICBC goes up to $15,000.00.
The most “fun” example of this in my practice was where a client retained me after ICBC had offered $8,000.00 to settle a soft tissue injury claim that ended up settling for fair financial compensation of over $800,000.00.
How do you protect yourself from this negotiation tactic? Find out the true value of the item you are negotiating for, so that you are not manipulated into an unfair result.
If negotiating for a house, consult an appraiser or real estate agent; if negotiating for a vehicle, consult a vehicle appraiser; if involved in a personal injury claim negotiation, ask a personal injury lawyer for a free claim evaluation.
Settling Based on Optimism
For most people, pain and other symptoms arising from a soft tissue injury 100% completely resolve. Since an optimistic prognosis can be a self-fulfilling prophecy, medical folks regularly give that prediction.
For many, though, that optimistic prognosis doesn’t come to pass.
Some end up with a lifetime of a mild level of pain or discomfort that has a minimal impact on their lives, sort of like a toothache that never goes away. The really unlucky ones develop chronic pain conditions that require lidocaine infusions, facet joint injections or rhizotomies, narcotic medication and other therapies to manage their unrelenting pain.
A sophisticated ICBC adjuster will encourage you to settle your claim while you are riding the wave of optimism. They will make an offer that would be fair if the optimism is well placed. But would be grossly unfair if it is not.
You want so badly to believe your medical team that you are on the road to a full recovery. A representative of your own insurance company, ICBC (though in a negotiation is representing the other driver, not you) is encouraging you to believe that as well.
You have no idea that there is a very real possibility that you might never, ever fully recover and what that might mean for fair compensation.
Fair financial compensation for a temporary soft tissue injury that completely resolves within a short period of time is in a completely different stratosphere from what’s fair to compensate for an injury that never, ever resolves. I’m talking a minimum of tens of thousands of dollars difference. Unless you are reading this, you don’t know that information either.
My advice is to fully embrace the optimism of your doctor and believe the true science that the odds are in your favour to achieve a complete recovery. Wait, though, until that beautiful recovery is achieved before entering into a settlement negotiation.
Keeping you in the Dark
This is the most insidious of negotiation tactics. It can be used any time a sophisticated insurance adjuster is negotiating with an unsuspecting victim.
The most hurtful and, perhaps, effective: “You should be better by now.” This one takes advantage of a lack of knowledge about how soft tissue injuries work. Every medical specialist will admit (even an ICBC “hired gun” in a cross-examination) that some people never, ever fully recover from soft tissue injuries. Yes, most do. Those lucky ones settle their claims, some feeling like they won the lottery because they got a few thousand dollars for a few months of pain. The unlucky ones settle their claims for a few thousand dollars for a lifetime of pain because they are manipulated into thinking that they are somehow the problem.
Another doozy: “Your ongoing pain isn’t because of the crash, it’s because of the degeneration in your spine”. The adjuster points to pre-crash degenerative changes in your spine (a natural aging process), an old injury requiring periodic chiropractic “maintenance” care or other factors in your medical history. They insinuate that if it wasn’t for those factors you wouldn’t still have pain, so therefore you are not entitled to compensation for that ongoing pain.
The law is very, very clear. Your vulnerability to a more serious or longer lasting injury is not an excuse that can be used to escape the responsibility to pay fair compensation. The law fairly allows compensation for all injuries and symptoms that would not have arisen had the crash not occurred, even if the seriousness / longevity of those injuries and symptoms would have been far less if it were not for pre-crash vulnerabilities.
Other legalities you are likely to be kept in the dark about? What about reimbursement for mileage expense at $0.50 per kilometre? ICBC employees are entitled to employment related mileage reimbursement, but are unlikely to mention to an injured victim that you are entitled to compensation for all, not just some, of your losses, including this one.
A much more significant loss that is “overlooked” in negotiations with unsuspecting victims is a loss of capacity to earn income in the future even if there has been very little or no loss of income since the crash. Future job duties might cause more aggravation of your crash symptoms than your current ones; a future employer might not be accommodating of your limitations or might disregard your employment application out of hand because you are “damaged goods”; your ability to tolerate ongoing symptoms in a full time job might diminish as you age.
This often overlooked loss can be tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars over the balance of a career.
Avoid being manipulated in an ICBC claim negotiation by getting a free, independent assessment of what’s fair by a reputable personal injury lawyer.
Bottom Line Offer
This is the most effective of tactics insurance adjusters use in the negotiation of a personal injury claim. They tell you in the strongest of terms that the amount offered is the most you will ever be offered, “take it or leave it”. They often throw in some threats such as, “If you don’t accept this amount now, the offer will go down”; or lie to you saying, “Either you accept this from me or you will have to go to trial.”
In the over 20 years I have been in legal practice, the insurance company’s offer has always, every time, increased after their bluff has been called and a lawyer retained.
With ICBC, a claim you are negotiating with one adjuster gets automatically transferred from that adjuster who deals with unrepresented claimants to a higher “litigation” level of adjuster. I am often contacted by the new adjuster shortly after being retained with the invitation of picking up the negotiation wherever it had left off.
I know that many, many injured victims don’t call the insurance company’s bluff and instead settle for inadequate, unfairly low levels of compensation for their losses. It’s a very effective negotiation tactic.
ICBC Negotiation Tactics Series:
- ICBC Negotiation Tactics: 24 hour deadlines [Part 1/5]
- ICBC Negotiation Tactics: Lowball offers [Part 2/5]
- ICBC Negotiation Tactics: Settling based on optimism [Part 3/5]
- ICBC Negotiation Tactics: Keeping you in the dark [Part 4/5]
- ICBC Negotiation Tactics: Bottom line offer [Part 5/5]