5 mistakes to avoid after getting into a car accident

Every day in British Columbia, about 260 people are injured in car crashes and that number has been steadily on the rise since 2014.

Many victims sustain what the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) deems minor injuries—sprains, strains, whiplash, concussions and anxiety.

But under a new personal injury cap coming into effect on April 1, some victims will be collecting significantly less compensation than they would have previously been entitled to.

An individual who sustains a minor injury and is not at fault for the collision will be limited to $5,500 in compensation for pain and suffering regardless of what previous court rulings state, explains Rick McMullan, a partner at CBM Lawyers and a senior member of the personal injury bar.

A cap on the personal injury amount doesn’t mean you shouldn’t see a lawyer when you do get into an accident, however.

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“A lawyer can help [determine] whether or not your injury would be considered minor,” McMullan says. “A lawyer can also explain the law to you and help ensure that you are receiving all benefits and compensation that you are entitled to receive from ICBC.”

But in order for lawyers to do that, it’s important to collect information for your claim at the scene of the collision. In partnership with CBM Lawyers, McMullan shares five common mistakes people make after an accident and describes how to avoid them.

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Not taking down information about the other driver and their vehicle

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To make an ICBC claim, it’s imperative to have the other driver’s name, driver’s licence number and licence plate number, McMullan says. One way to avoid missing or losing anything is to take pictures of the other driver’s licence, their licence plate and their vehicle.

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Not getting witness information

People often forget to look for witnesses at the scene of an accident because they don’t think fault for the collision will be a topic of contention.

If fault does come into question, it doesn’t hurt to have an independent third-party account of the accident.

One way to avoid making this mistake is to take a quick scan of the scene and ask anyone standing around if they saw the accident and if you can have their contact information, McMullan says.

Not documenting the details of the accident

In times of stress, details can easily be forgotten. Sometimes you may need to recall these details months or years from when the car crash occurred, and it’s important to have as accurate a record as possible to refresh your memory.

When it’s safe to do so, take a moment and write down everything that happened or make an audio recording on your phone. Recount what each vehicle was doing, what you remember seeing, conversations that were had with the other driver, location, date, time and weather conditions.

Not getting treatment for your injuries

If you are injured, it’s important to report your injury to your physician and receive medical treatment in a timely manner.

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In the aftermath of an accident –when you’re busy dealing with car repairs and reporting the accident—getting medical treatment can be an afterthought. Don’t forget to take care of yourself, McMullan says.

Not talking to a personal injury lawyer

People involved in accidents sometimes think they can handle things on their own, but having a lawyer explain your rights under the law can be immensely helpful. A personal injury lawyer is required to work in your best interests and will be able to explain the process following an accident. They can advise you of your rights and responsibilities as well as what benefits you may be entitled to receive from ICBC.

“Getting into an accident is often a shocking and emotionally upsetting experience. In such a circumstance, it may be difficult to think clearly,” McMullan says. “Take some deep breaths and try to relax.”

McMullan also advises people to have an “in case of accident” card that lists the information you need to collect and has some space for notes in your vehicle. This can act as a prompt when you are upset and help prevent you from forgetting anything.

With the ICBC caps on personal injury claims coming into effect this spring, it’s important to know how that will affect those who find themselves in car accident. For more information, visit


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