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February 9, 2017: Winter driving conditions and US politics

Listen to the interview above or read the full transcript below.

Kash:   

Let’s get on to our next guest. He is an expert in this particular area, expert in dealing with ICBC, expert in personal injury claim. He’s a expert in a lot of things. Also has a good opinion on many issues, Manjot Hallen, a lawyer with Warnett Hallen LLP. Good morning Manjot.

Manjot:   

Hi Kash.

Kash:   

Pleasure to-

Manjot:  

How are you?

Kash: 

I’m doing well. I made it through this season so far without having to call you Manjot, and guess what? But I’ve come close.

Manjot:  

Good for you.

Kash: 

I’ve come very, very close, and it hasn’t been my fault I can be happy to say, but boy I’ll tell you, I’ve never seen, in quite some time, continual weather conditions that we’ve been facing. And the hazardous road conditions that are more prevalent in some communities than others, but Vancouver has to be probably one of the poorest road clearing areas that I’ve experienced in recent times.

Manjot: 

Oh absolutely. When we had our last big snowfall, I remember I was driving over Granville Street Bridge that connects Vancouver proper to downtown, and the sidewalks and the roads were icy for three, four day. It was over the course of a week, and no one had cared to even clean it up or salt the sidewalks, and it was an accident waiting to happen.

Kash:   

Well, they come out and they say, “Look, we’re hitting the main roads. We’re hitting the ulterior routes that are used a lot by communities,” and all that, but there are areas that for example when you go on the southwest side and there’s some of the major concerns like Blenheim and stuff like that, which I can consider a major ulterior route because it takes people all the way from Marine Drive down to Broadway without any problems. You get no action in those areas, but when you talk about that, you talk about whether the savings from a municipal dollar point. And I want to make a point here. It’s all taxpayers’ money that we’re supposedly saving, but if you do not deal with those conditions, if you do not deal with the road conditions, we know what happens, and it’s my understanding that ICBC claims have just skyrocketed, that they can’t even keep up to the calls that are going into the claims line on this. And again ICBC is a crown corporation and at the end of the day, the taxpayers will be paying for this.

Manjot:

Absolutely. I mean, we’ve had a discussion before, Kash, about how ICBC premiums have skyrocketed over the last few years, and they’re probably going to continue to do so. And that’s because there have been more claims and weather like this only contributes to this. You’re absolutely right. I mean when you have one level of government that’s trying to save costs by not bringing their snow clearers out and their trucks out over the course of a weekend. I mean unfortunately the thing that we’ve seen here in Vancouver in the last month or so is heavy snowfall has typically happened over the course of a weekend, and what I’ve noticed, is that there’s no one cleaning on a Saturday or Sunday. So you’re waiting all weekend long to actually have your roads cleaned, and that’s probably a cost-saving measure by the local government. At the same time, they’re trying to save some taxpayer dollars by not cleaning the roads and paying overtime presumably, but the claims costs are increasing for ICBC. And that cost is being handed over to taxpayers as well in the form of increased premiums, so really you’re just kind of robbing Peter to pay Paul here.

Kash:

Manjot, and you’ve been around. You’ve been doing personal injury claims for quite a period of time, and your law firm is one of the expert law firms that are recognized and deal with some of the personal injury claims. What are we looking at? What types of accidents are we looking at? Are we looking at the more serious accidents that are leading to personal injury, or are we looking at the low-collision accidents given the weather conditions?

Manjot:   

It’s probably the increase of both, Kash. I’ve received a lot of calls when people have been in car accidents because someone has slid into their car, they lost control of their car, a lot of rear-end collisions. We’re seeing a lot of those right now. And yes, some of them are causing injuries, so there is an increase in personal injury claims when the weather is as disastrous as it has been in the last month or so.

Kash:    

What should people, what’s the first thing they should do besides notify ICBC that they’ve been involved in an accident? Because I’ve talked to some lawyers, and they said, “Look, go to ICBC. Follow your paperwork. Do whatever you can,” or whatever. I’ve talked to other lawyers that said, “Look, if you’re injured, if you’re all … We will assist you and we will help you through the process.” What is the best avenue to take when you’re dealing with ICBC?

Manjot: 

Well, obviously Kash, I’m a little biased when it comes to answering this question, but I think the best thing you could do-

Kash:  

But lawyers have asked … Other lawyers have answered this two different ways.

Manjot: 

Well, you know the way I would answer it is I think you should contact a lawyer first and foremost, because the first thing ICBC’s going to do is take a statement from you. And they’re going to write everything down and they’re going to try to suggest that you may be at fault for an accident that you’re not at fault for. So I think you need a lawyer on your side to initially report a claim, and provide that statement on your behalf to ensure that your words are not misconstrued. That’s my personal advice on that topic.

Kash: 

Now, when you’re talking about that, I’ve got to ask you. You’ve been in court and you’ve negotiated several of these over the years. Do the claims people or the legal people with ICBC take a more of a cynical approach to a claim, especially if it’s personal injury if in fact there’s a lawyer involved right from the outset? Or if the individual comes to ICBC on their own?

Manjot:

I think-

Kash:   

Or just does it depend on the circumstances?

Manjot: 

You know what, a lot of it does depend on the circumstances, but I think it’s quite the opposite. I think when there’s a lawyer involved, they have to take it a little bit more seriously. The unfortunate thing we have here in British Columbia, is you have an insurance company that oftentimes, I’m not going to suggest all the time, but often time it doesn’t deal with their claimants fairly. And yeah, situations where they’re not fairly compensating claimants. They’re not necessarily taking their injuries seriously. That’s where we come in. That’s where we assist people and ensure that there’s a level playing field between them and ICBC, and we ensure that we say the right thing so that their words are not misconstrued and that their claim is taken seriously. I think by having the lawyer, ICBC has to take it more seriously, rather than be cynical about it. I think if you don’t have a lawyer, you’re more likely to be taken advantage of by ICBC.

Kash: 

And here’s my take on it. When you go to ICBC and you file a claim, you do make a statement. You give a statement.

Manjot: 

Absolutely.

Kash:   

And people that are … You know, they’re drivers. They’re not trained to like, I would do something different if I was involved in it. I would pull up my phone and I’d start taking pictures. I’d start taking pictures of people around or license plates of cars around during it happen. If I can’t stop these people to take it, I’ll at least provide all that information, do a drawing of the scene, and pretty well write down everything that has occurred and what the other person said to me. That would be my point of view, if I was involved in it and I was able to do all of that. But when someone’s involved in it, you gotta go … The shock experience of someone hitting their car or them involved in an accident, they don’t think along those lines, so they try and remember what happened, what color the light was, what the people were around, who they were, all of that. The road conditions or whatever. And you know, they’ve just gone through a shocking experience. How could you realize it?

So when they go into ICBC, they meet with the claims adjuster or whatever. They’re asked to write out a statement, hand in a piece of paper, or the person’s writing it for them. They are not necessarily going to recall all of the pertinent information, and-

Manjot:   

That’s right.

Kash:  

In my opinion, that adjuster will use that against him or try and find the other party involved and again, trying to say, “You know, guess what? It’s 50/50 blame here.”

Manjot: 

Absolutely. Absolutely. The first thing that you need to do is ensure you get the particulars of the other vehicle that was involved in this accident. You cannot let the other vehicle leave the scene. You want to get their particulars. Number two, taking photographs is important as well. Number three, making notes if you can. And I understand, what you said is completely true. The person who’s just been hit is going to be in shock, so it’s hard to do all of this when you’re in a state of shock, but you have to try your best. And number three or four, is to ensure that you get names of witnesses if you can. So Kash, all the things that you outlined are the things that I would suggest that everyone should be doing. And it sounds like you’ve been to a claim center, and you’ve had this experience-

Kash: 

Well, no it’s just my years of policing, having to attend these accidents. That’s something that by default, would actually do.

Manjot:  

And you should.

Kash:    

The point I want to make here is, I was trying to do all of this stuff. So for me, it would be a little different than someone that’s just gone through that shocking experience of being involved in an accident. So the point I wanted to make here, is ICBC, the naivety of that person making the claim, ICBC will use that to their advantage. And so what I’m trying to say, I guess I’m trying to say that’s why you need to have someone that has legal experience with you on this file right from the outset.

Manjot:

You’re absolutely correct. And it gets even worse if that person has an issue with the English language. If English isn’t their first language, imagine that. Imagine being in that scenario, in shock, trying to collect all of this information, and then having to report it on your own to ICBC, and having a cultural or language barrier.

Kash: 

Do we need to educate drivers a little more on these types of claims? Because of course when we have young drivers or new drivers getting their license and all that, they’re focusing on making sure that everything’s taken care of, but they never imagine themselves getting involved in an accident. Do you think we need to educate them a little bit more on this process? Because ICBC does have a website, information, all of that, but … Again that’s after the fact, usually after you’ve gone home and you’ve gone on to the website to get the number to call in.

Manjot:  

I think we need to educate them more about the process, but we also need to educate people on how to avoid these accidents. I mean, distracted driving amongst the youth is still a huge issue in my mind. We need to put that to an end. Number two, when you have weather conditions like this, there’s a lot of things that people are doing wrong out there. Like first off, people don’t even have snow tires in this city. That’s got to be the first thing that you do to avoid a situation where you’re slipping and sliding and causing accidents. And you have to take account for the road conditions, and I find that a lot of people don’t do that in Vancouver because we’re not used to driving in these conditions. People are still driving as fast as they did when it’s … When the road conditions are better.

Kash:  

Oh I witnessed that so much this year. I witness that more so this year than any other year I’ve been driving.

Manjot:

Absolutely, and you know, people have these four by fours, and they think, look, I’ve got a four by four, I’ll be perfectly fine. But you’re not. The road conditions have changed. They’re way worse than they are usually. You need to drive slower. You need to have snow tires. You need to give yourself more space between you and the vehicle in front, and allow yourself more time to stop. You need to ensure you’re never on your phone, number one. But especially not in conditions like this. So I think we need to have a better discussion about, and conversation about how to prevent these types of accidents, particularly in these weather conditions.

Kash: 

Do you feel, for example, new drivers who have the N on the car, we should have them not drive in these conditions? They would have to go through that whole graduate license program in order to drive for example, when the road conditions change dramatically like we’ve experienced over the last couple of months?

Manjot: 

Yeah, it’s a good idea, I just … I mean, you would understand how to police it better than I would, but I don’t see how you’d be able to enforce that. The other problem you have is when it’s very subjective as to when you have poor road conditions. Right now when I look out the window of my office, it’s raining heavily, and there’s slush on the ground. I mean, wouldn’t this be a situation where you wouldn’t want a new driver driving?

Kash:  

Yeah, in my point of view, yes. But again, it’s subjective based on my way of belief on what is going on. Manjot we’re going to take a quick break here on Pulse and coming back I want to talk a little bit politics with you. I know you’ve got an interest in politics, you’ve got an opinion on politics. I want to talk a little bit about what’s going on here in Canada in relation to discussions with the United States. Next on Pulse FM-

Manjot:  

Absolutely.

Kash:  

With Manjot Hallen, a lawyer with Warnett Hallen LLP. Club 19, welcome back. Well, we found out this morning that Prime Minister Trudeau is going down to the United States Monday, to meet President Trump. We’re talking to Manjot Hallen, a lawyer with Warnett Hallen LLP. He’s been involved in political circles from various points of view over the last several years, so Manjot I’ve got to ask you right upfront. We’ve been waiting this meeting, we’ve heard a lot about NAFTA, the fact that Trump wants to re-negotiate a NAFTA. I believe he doesn’t think the United States has a fair deal on NAFTA. We’ve heard about the soft wood lumber problem, and what is going on there, and I’m sure there’s other trade issues that we’ll be hearing about. TPP is out. It’s out in the snow, but at the end of the day what do you think is going to happen in Washington on Monday?

Manjot:  

Well, I think it’s going to be a productive conversation between the two, between our Prime Minister and the President. Look, what this government has done, they’ve laid the groundwork for this meeting. They’ve had the Minister of National Defense there this week, they’ve had the Minister of Foreign Affairs there this week, and both have met with their counterparts and sort of set the stage for what’s going to happen on Monday. We’ve advised the U.S. Administration what we expect from that meeting, we’ve told them what we don’t want happening, I mean the Minister of National Defense said, “Look, torture is totally off the table as far as Canada’s concerned.” The Minister of Foreign Affairs as told the Secretary of State that she doesn’t anticipate seeing any kind of border tax or border tariffs implemented, and if there are, then we will retaliate. So I think the state has largely been set for this meeting, and I think based on that it should be a productive meeting between the two gentleman.

Kash:  

So you think the stage has been set? Or the decision has been made and we’re just looking at a photo op for the two?

Manjot:   

I don’t think a lot of the decisions have been made yet. I think there will be a lot that comes from this meeting. I think what the government has done is set the stage in the sense that they’ve told the administration what they expect from this meeting, and we’ll see how it goes. I think our Prime Minister is the right person for this meeting. I’ve met him and dealt with him several times, and he’s calm, he’s collective, he’s reasoned, but he can be firm when necessary, and I think that’s who you need in this situation when you’re dealing with someone who could be, frankly, quite erratic.

Kash:      

Well, he is erratic, and that’s a concern here. Trump is erratic. Do you think we’re at polarized opposite on some of these positions, and at the end of the day Trump will play his rhetoric theme and say one thing and then go and do something completely different?

Manjot:    

Well Kash, it’s hard to tell, because a lot of these things that were said, were said over the course of the campaign, right? And we have seen some of it come into play. I mean, I know a lot of people that were watching the U.S. Election, didn’t think there would be any kind of a travel ban. That was implemented. A lot of people didn’t think that he was going to go that far and scrapping TPP, and he’s done that. I don’t know what the plan is for NAFTA. My hope is that there is no change to NAFTA, but expect come this meeting on Monday, we’ll have a better sense of it. We’ll have a better sense of the U.S.’s position on that matter.

Kash:    

Well, the travel ban. Since you brought that, let’s just hit on that for a minute, because the illegal community has come out opposed to that. We’ve got the, I think the appeal court is going to come out. We know that’s going to go to the Supreme Court in the United States for a decision to be made. The appointee that Trump would like to put in the Supreme Court, he came out with some remarks that aren’t encouraging to Trump, and Trump has come out, although he says he doesn’t want to bias but he comes out and slams the judiciary that are involved in making this decision. So how independent can the judiciary be if all of a sudden we have just on the travel ban, this controversy going on. And the point I want to make on the behavior of Donald Trump is, he’s almost operating like a dictator. Okay, let’s take a break. We’ll see if we can get Manjot back on the line.

Welcome back, we got Manjot back on the line. Manjot I thought you didn’t like my questions, so you just hung up.

Manjot:

Not at all, Kash. Our phone line went down.

Kash:  

Oh, okay.

Manjot:  

It’s funny that it happened while we’re talking about the U.S. Administration. I’m billing the Russians.

Kash:    

Okay, you do have a sense of humor, a lawyer with a sense of humor. Many lawyers have a sense of humor. We’re talking about the travel ban. And I talked about the illegal community kind of coming out against it, and I talked about even the nominee for the Supreme Court of the United States is kind of saying his disparaging the remarks made by Trump, and the fact that he does not want to bias the decision, but he comes out and slams the judiciary. So quite truly have an independent judiciary. You’re an expert in this area. You know about this stuff. You know about the political environment.

Manjot:    

Absolutely. Look, I think it’s totally uncalled for. You cannot attack the judiciary, especially when you’re the President of the United States. There has to be a constitutional check on the President’s power. That’s what the judiciary is for. So look, it’s not a good situation when the President’s making those types of comments, but the ban itself. I mean, you know what our government’s view of it is.

Kash: 

Yes.

Manjot:  

We have a country that’s build on diversity. People like myself and you were here because we believe in diversity, because our country has always believed in multiculturalism, and open borders to immigrants who are going to be productive members of our society. And so we have an opportunity here. Canada has an opportunity here, to take advantage of this. They’re not only going to lose out. The Americans are … They’re trying to protect themselves, or so they say. But they’re going to lose out on talent. There’s people from these countries that are going to work in the IT sector, that can product, that can benefit the country economically. We can take advantage of that, and advertise our country as it being open to accepting those individuals.

Kash:  

Manjot do you think this will come up in the discussion on Monday with Trump? Do you think they’ll have some discussion on this? Because the third country or the rule that’s been opposed by not only by the civil libertarians out there, but the societies that are created around that and the challenges on Canada. But I don’t have any clear indication from the new immigration Minister in the Trudeau government, that he will actually look at that and put that aside versus trying to work within its framework.

Manjot:   

Well, I think our Prime Minister has already made our position clear. I mean, anyone who follows his Twitter account knows exactly where we stand on this issue. That we are open, our borders are open for productive immigration. We cherish diversity. We always have, and we always will. We don’t believe in preventing people from certain countries who cross our border.

Kash:   

Well, it remains to be seen. But who do you think is going to be at the table with our Prime Minister? Do you think those Ministers that have laid the groundwork with their counterparts in the United States will be there at the table with him or do you think at the end of the day it’ll be a couple of key, strategic advisors. I’m not sure if Brian Mulroney is one of them, that will be around the table with him.

Manjot:  

Yeah, generally speaking when there have been these types of meetings in the past between a Prime Minister and a President, there usually are some advisors that are in the room as well, and that’s sort of the extent of it. That’s what I would expect on Monday as well.

Kash:    

Well, we’ll see what happens. I think a lot of decisions … I got to tell you, my slant is maybe I’m being a bit cynical, probably the decisions have been made and this might be a little bit of a photo op, but you never know as you say, with Donald Trump.

Manjot:  

You never know Kash.

Kash: 

Manjot, it’s been a pleasure to talk to you. We’re going to talk again on many issues going forward. We’ll keep with our friendship. It’s great to have you on the show today to talk about these issues, Manjot.

Manjot:    

Thanks, again Kash. Have a great day.

Kash:  

Have a great day.