ICBC cuts deal on year-old dispute with homeowner after CBC intervenes
'It's not my fault,' says Binh Le after police vehicle crashed through fence around his Vancouver home
Vancouver resident Binh Le says he is happy he finally has a settlement from ICBC reimbursing him for repairs to a fence around his home on 41st Avenue at Rupert Street but is frustrated the insurer didn't pay the full cost.
In the early morning hours of Dec. 28, 2018, a Vancouver police vehicle, reportedly avoiding a collision with a limousine, crashed through a section of Le's brick and metal wall.
"This is not my fault, so ICBC should pay," Le told CBC, as he stood next to the fence that he finally had fixed last summer.
After a year of back-and-forth with the insurance corporation, the small business owner submitted a bill for $10,920 to ICBC in October.
Following months with no response, Le contacted CBC and it began asking questions, but the day before Le's story was to be published, the corporation agreed to pay him $9,225.83.
But first, Le says, an ICBC representative called Monday afternoon with a settlement he didn't like, so he sent the rep back to the drawing board to reconsider.
A couple of hours later, he says, the woman phoned again, offering to sweeten the pot by another $1,000.
"To me, it not really fair because I don't do anything wrong. Why I have to pay?" said Le.
He says the adjuster he had been dealing with told him to get the work done, and the corporation would assess the cost afterward, but now, he says, he's out-of-pocket almost $1,700, because ICBC questioned details of the work and the materials used to do it.
Watch a Vancouver police SUV crash through Binh Le's fence
Confusion over process
An email exchange between Le and an ICBC adjuster last January indicates the process started with an incorrect file number and then months of delays.
Le, 54, says he followed the instructions of the adjuster as best he could. ICBC had initially told him he would need to provide three quotes and photographs of the damage.
In early March, he submitted two quotes for repairs. A month later, he received a letter from ICBC repeating a request for a third quote, and telling him it would compare the quotes against pictures of the damage.
Le says he was unable to find another contractor to bid on the entire job that involved metal and brick work. Some would do only the metal work and others would do only the brick work.
In June, Le says, the adjuster acknowledged two quotes would be acceptable. By then, Le wanted ICBC to simply issue a cheque based on the two quotes so he could get the work done.
ICBC 'nickel and diming'
"You fix your house, send me all the bills or the invoice and then we consider how much we pay you," said Le explaining what ICBC told him.
In August, Le went ahead with the cheaper of the two quotes and got his fence fixed. When the work was completed in October, Le submitted his claim.
Since then, he has been back-and-forth with the adjuster over questions about the age of the original fence, the number of bricks that had to be replaced and the distance between the contractor's shop and Le's house.
"Nickel-and-diming, I think, describes it very well," said Ted Wenner a longtime friend of Le's. "I'm a little astonished, because here's a man who's a completely innocent party."
Wenner said when he talked to the adjuster in a bid to help Le, he felt she implied the repairs didn't warrant new materials because the house was old.
Le built the house 12 years ago.
Both sides to blame
ICBC has a process for submitting property claims.
Corporation spokesperson Brent Shearer says those who don't follow it may well find that resolution takes a long time but acknowledged the company is partially to blame for delays in Le's case.
According to Shearer, Le didn't provide three quotes as he was asked to do and didn't submit photographs of the damage to his fence until November 2019, 11 months after the accident. Le insists he submitted photos earlier.
"It's going to be a challenge for an insurer to have no photographic evidence and just receive a final invoice," said Shearer.
He says it's also not unreasonable for ICBC to look at the invoice to make sure it's not being over-billed.
His advice for customers submitting property claims is to take photos of the damage, get three itemized quotes for repairs and provide some information about the age of the property, so an adjuster can quantify the damage to determine a settlement.
Le, says accidents happen at least two or three times a month at the intersection outside his house.
Most recently, there was one on Dec. 19 and another Dec. 31.
In the dozen years since Le has lived on the busy corner with his family, at least four crashes have ended up in his yard.
But the one that took out his wall was the worst.
Le was out of town when it happened, but his adult children were home and heard the boom. When his son called to tell Le there had been an accident, he replied, "oh, that's normal."
But Le says, his son responded, "no, it's not normal. The police car hit our home."
Le immigrated as a teenager from Vietnam in 1985. He now owns and operates a painting business.
The thousands of dollars he spent to fix his fence, he says, had a substantial impact on his finances.
"I'm tired," said Le. "I have to go through this situation is, you know, too much hassle."
CBC Vancouver's Impact Team investigates and reports on stories that impact people in their local community and strives to hold individuals, institutions and organizations to account. If you have a story for us, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
With files from Paisley Woodward