While both your injury claim and your vehicle claim may be against ICBC, they are legally distinct claims. We find that most of our clients are very good at managing their own vehicle claims, and so we generally do not handle that claim. However, we are happy to provide guidance on this, free of charge. Keep in mind that once you sign a release for your vehicle claim, it’s final. So if you want legal advice on your vehicle claim, it is important to talk to us before signing anything with ICBC.
Repair, Replace or Write-off
ICBC has the option to do one of three things with your vehicle: (1) repair it to its pre-accident condition, (2) replace it with a vehicle of similar kind or quality, or (3) write-off the vehicle and give you the declared value or the “actual cash value”. Under the vehicle damage policy, ICBC is only required to pay the lesser of the declared value (as you declared it when purchasing or renewing the policy) or the “actual cash value” when writing off a vehicle.
Determining “Actual Cash Value”
The “actual cash value” is the estimated market value of the vehicle immediately before the accident. This amount takes into consideration all relevant factors: purchase price of the vehicle, the vehicle history, repairs/enhancements, and changes in market demand. You can negotiate with ICBC if you disagree about their valuation. In our experience they are particularly responsive to authoritative valuations such as the Blue Book, as well as other evidence such as classified ads for similar vehicles and any evidence of work done to maintain or improve the vehicle.
Challenging ICBC’s valuation
If you disagree with ICBC’s valuation and they will not negotiate, you generally have to submit to commercial arbitration. This is a forum that generally does not require lawyers, and so you can initiate this process even if you don’t have counsel.
Loss of Resale Value
One common concern we hear from clients is about decreased resale value of a vehicle that has been involved in a major accident. While ICBC’s vehicle damage policy does not cover loss of resale value, you can claim this from the driver who caused the accident. The legal term is “accelerated depreciation”. However, because this can be difficult to prove, we generally only recommend pursuing this claim where there is a proven loss in resale value of several thousand dollars.
If you think you have a claim for accelerated depreciation, you should get a letter from one or more used car dealers explaining what they would offer for your vehicle in its current (post-repair) condition, and how that differs from the market value of a similar vehicle that has not been involved in an accident.