Interest on Disbursements: A Warning to Claimants

Posted on by Mussio Goodman

What You Need to Know About Interest on Disbursement on ICBC Claim Cases

In order to fight for your right to compensation with ICBC, lawyers must spend money on a variety of necessary services such as investigation, doctor’s reports, photocopies and court fees. These expenses are known as disbursements.

When you hire a lawyer for your ICBC car accident, you are typically charged an interest rate on these disbursements. This is to facilitate financing your case, as most law firms require a loan or a line of credit from a lending institution to operate their business.

Normally, ICBC will be forced to pay the interest charge because it is associated with the the advancement of a claimant’s case. However, many lawyers charge very high interest rates (ie. over 10-15% per year. As a result, ICBC will resist paying those charges when the case is concluded).

In the recent case of Phippen v. Hampton, the claimant was injured in a car accident and retained a law firm. Upon signing the fee agreement, she agreed to pay 15% on disbursements since the lawyer was using a financial lender to finance the personal injury claim. When the lawyer tried to get ICBC to pay for the interest charges, ICBC refused. The Supreme Court of British Columbia determined that 15% was unreasonable in the circumstances and substituted a lower rate.

In essence, the court confirmed that ICBC is not forced to pay interest that is too high, but only reasonable interest on disbursements. In practice, a reasonable rate is usually between 6-8%.

The decision is good news for all claimants. It confirms that the interest on disbursements must be paid for by ICBC, and sets a key precedent as to what is a reasonable rate. Lawyers that attempt to charge over 8% will likely be confronted with ICBC’s refusal to pay those charges when the claim is finished.

The end result is that the claimant may be stuck with paying the remainder of any interest that Court has deemed unreasonable. This seemingly small amount can add up, especially for cases of a lengthy duration.

A few percentage points of interest on disbursements can mean a client is left with a lower settlement at the end of the claim. Therefore, it is important to pay attention to interest charges on disbursements when you are thinking of hiring a lawyer.