You Buy Auto Insurance from ICBC or one of its brokers (ie, BCAA) Read this to inform yourself
Lawyers working for you and ICBC at the same time?
Have you ever heard of a conflict of interest? Do you think conflicts of interest are fair or ethical? Due to a loophole in B.C. law, ICBC and your personal injury lawyer can collude for their own personal gain not yours.
After being involved in a serious MVA, in which the driver who caused the accident accepted 100% liability, I was advised to hire a lawyer. I had never been in such a situation before. Naturally, I assumed I was hiring a lawyer to defend and advocate for my injuries in an accident that has severely affected my life. I felt I could trust a lawyer to help me because they are professionals that have taken oaths at the bar (no pun intended). Long story short is that icbc, which has a monopoly on insurance sales in our province, is now working with select personal injury claim lawyers and firms, to save money on settlement payouts. That means you and I are being denied proper compensation and representation for insurance we are essentially forced to purchase from icbc. I will explain why that is in the following paragraphs.
Since there is no law in our jurisdiction that forces lawyers to disclose that they accept private counsel contracts from icbc, the notion of conflicts of interest in personal injury law suits is alive and well. That being said, the law society's ethics committee released a benchers' bulletin in 2006, stating that lawyers who work within a "strategic alliance agreement" with icbc, should disclose such information to prospective clients so as not to create a conflict of interest.
However, the lawyers that sign into a SAA with ICBC, know full well that when they do so, they are surrendering their ability to sue ICBC for negotiating in bad faith. What that means, is that they cannot advocate for you properly, they can only advocate for you according to what ICBC expects of them for signing into the SAA. Of course they have been required by the ethics committee of the LSBC to tell you in a written contract that they work for ICBC but many of them do not, banking on the fact that, nobody knows of the Strategic Alliance Agreement and relying on the old adage; "it isn't lying if nobody asks."
Below is a link that has been removed from the LSBC's website after I had them investigate my lawyer for lawyer misconduct. You can contact them and ask them to see the publication yourself, which requires lawyers to disclose to clients that they also work for ICBC, the exact people you hired the lawyer to advocate against.
***Please note that since I had the lawyer and law firm in question investigated by the LSBC, the LSBC has removed the information associated with the above link outlining a lawyers responsibility to full disclosure with clients and prospective clients.***
(Please feel free to contact the LSBC to have a copy of the link sent to you.)
That means that a lawyer you hire, who stands to earn tens of thousands of dollars from your misfortune, may not have your best interests in mind. Why would a lawyer do that if they earn a contingency percentage from your settlement? Because it is far more lucrative, and safer to make that money from a powerful corporation like ICBC.
Imagine you are in business for yourself and you must rely on your own advertising budget and marketing efforts to drum up business. Now imagine having the opportunity to earn a guaranteed revenue in the millions from a massive corporation, saving you from the reliance of earning clients by painstakingly building a good reputation for yourself and your company through honest hard work. It is easy to see how greed can influence people to take unethical steps to attain money. Typically, we associate that kind of concept with criminals, a name given to people who take advantage of others, typically the weak or unassuming. We do not however, think of people acting that way that are trusted by society.
FYI, The Strategic Alliance Agreement does not allow a lawyer engaged in one to sue ICBC for negotiating in poor faith. What that means, is that you are hiring a lawyer with a bark but no bite and that lawyer knows that before he or she agrees to take your case.
What all of this means, is that you are not being properly represented and that in addition to being the victim of a horrible accident, one could argue that you are now also the victim of a well conceived elaborate agreement between your lawyer and icbc. An agreement that they consciously neglect to tell you about. Is that fair for a customer who has bought a product and service from providers (icbc and select plaintiff lawyers) who don't deliver on the product and services they advertise? An agreement that they consciously neglect to tell you about. Is that fair for a customer who has bought a product and service from providers (icbc and select plaintiff lawyers) who don't deliver on the product and services they advertise?
Here is an example to illustrate the point. You purchase a car which the salesperson and manufacturer claim produces 300hp. However, after you purchase the car, you realize that the car only produces 200hp and that you have been sold a car that does not live up to the specs you purchased it for.
There is a way around it though. When you interview prospective lawyers to advocate for your injuries, ask them if their law firm accepts private counsel contracts from icbc. If they say they don't, ask them to put that in writing on a company letterhead so you can hold them to that. You may also want to tell them that if they engage in a SAA while you have them under contract, that you can opt out of the contract without penalty. Moreover, it would be prudent to ask for a copy in writing, i.e. minutes of all correspondence between your lawyer and ICBC.
Remember, you are hiring a service provider, you can make fair and reasonable demands on them.
****A recent article was published by Business in Vancouver that speaks more to this issue. BIV has created a very user friendly Data Base that allows anyone to cross reference whether or not the law firm an individual has hired, or is considering hiring, is involved in the SAA.****
Just scroll down to roughly page 65 where you will find the following header;
amounts paid to suppliers for goods and services
For the year ended december 31, 20. . . for example. Check for more than just one year. Usually 5-6 year records are provided.
Look for the law firm you are considering-the list is in alphabetical order. If you see they have been paid by icbc, don't hire them! Also utilize the database from Business in Vancouver, as it is a wonderful resource.
Here is an example for 2012. This is the actual amount that a law firm made from icbc.
Stevens Virgin of Vancouver, billed icbc for $6,381,507 in 2012.
this sum supports a bullish trend by this law firm, as the amount they have billed icbc from 2009, '10, '11 has increased significantly. note the figures;
2009- stevens virgin billed icbc for $3,995,603
2010- stevens virgin billed icbc for $5,161,638
2011- stevens virgin billed icbc for $5,856,853
2012- stevens virgin billed icbc for $6,381,507
2013- stevens virgin billed icbc for $6,798,147
2014- stevens virgin billed icbc for $5,141,226
2015- stevens virgin billed icbc for $5,704,012
2016/17- stevens virgin billed icbc for 6,060,790
Could this law firm fight aggressively for your cause? They do more than 6 million dollars of business (on the books) with icbc annually. They do however fight voraciously for icbc. Additionally, remember, they have signed a SAA with ICBC so they cannot sue ICBC for negotiating in poor faith, an important strategic tactic, nor do they have any interest in doing so. Their main interest is to appease ICBC and their SAA contract to make as much money as possible at your expense.
What do you think is more lucrative for them?
a) making 30% off of your contingency claim for which they cannot sue ICBC for negotiating in bad faith.
b) securing guaranteed income in the millions from icbc every year-without having to advertise for their services?
The only way we can stop this practice, is by not hiring firms that neglect to tell prospective clients they work for icbc as well. Now I ask you, if you made 6 million dollars a year from icbc, would you be inclined to fight aggressively against them and risk losing those private counsel contracts = $6,000,000 + to another law firm doing the same thing?
Let's put an end to this agreement between icbc and select, law firms.
Tell everyone you know who gets into an accident to follow the advice laid out in this post. There is nothing wrong with lawyers working for icbc but those same lawyers have to tell prospective clients that that is indeed what they do in order to work ethically, and in order to let the client make a well informed decision. Moreover, ICBC needs to inform us, the client, if we have hired a law firm engaged in the SAA. They have to let us make an educated decision about your representation moving forward. If we are comfortable with our choice, at least we knew, and made that choice ourselves.
Our system is broken.
I have taken the following steps.
Had the Law Society of BC investigate my lawyer.
Had the College of Physicians and Surgeons investigate the doctors my lawyer sent me too-also earners from ICBC
Had the Health Professional review Board investigate the CoP&S
Contacted the media
Have had the BC Ombudsperson look at decisions made by regulatory bodies
My British Columbian sisters and brothers, we are being taken advantage of, the organizations in place to protect us are not doing that and everybody is afraid to challenge ICBC.
Let us put an end to ICBC, a rogue organization that has monopolized us for years and does not belong to the Canadian Bureau of Insurers, Canada's regulatory body for insurance companies. The reason they have taken advantage of us is due to the fact we are too complacent or indifferent here in BC and for that reason, we are easy to deceive.
Only an open market in BC for auto insurance will allow competitors to uphold ethical business practices.
BCAA, Canadian direct, etc, all buy their insurance from ICBC.
You have been informed, do what you wish with this knowledge.
do NOT contact me with unsolicited services or offers