BC Injury Law and ICBC Claims Blog

Producing False Witness To Collision Leads to $200,000 in Financial Consequences

In an illustration of BC’s motor vehicle insurance system having real teeth to punish fraudulent acts, reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, ordering substantial damages against a couple who produced a false witness to ICBC following a motor vehicle collision.

In this week’s case (ICBC v. Panag) the Defendant was involved in a 2006 collision.  The parties had competing versions of how the collision occurred.  The Defendant produced a witness in support of her claim.  After investigation ICBC determined this individual in fact did not witness the collision and was known to the Defendant.

ICBC paid out over $188,000 in claims following the crash.  ICBC held the Defendant in breach of insurance and sued to recover this money on the basis that the Defendant attempted to commit insurance fraud.  Mr. Justice Grauer agreed and ordered repayment of these damages along with punitive damages.  In reaching this decision the Court provided the following reasons:

64]         In these circumstances I am satisfied that the Panags and Harinder Grewal were in fact involved in a conspiracy to put forward Mr. Grewal to ICBC as a witness to the collision knowing that he had not in fact witnessed it, and with the intention that he provide ICBC with evidence that he did not have and which they knew to be untrue.  The facts, in my view, cannot fairly admit of any other inference.  Speculation is not required…

[67]         It follows that both Mr. and Mrs. Panag participated in a conspiracy to deceive ICBC about both how the accident happened and the status of Mr. Grewal as a witness to the accident.  They clearly intended ICBC to rely upon their representations, and ICBC as a result was left scrambling for a considerable period of time as it embarked upon an extensive investigation in an attempt to straighten out what would otherwise have been and should have been a straightforward matter.  This amounts to fraud.  See, for instance, ICBC v. Nisbet, 2009 BCSC 1570, at para. 85.

[68]         In the result, the Panags have forfeited their right to coverage under s. 19(1)(d) of the IMVA as well as s. 19(1)(e), and ICBC is entitled to recover against both of them.  Whether directly as a consequence of the Panags’ conspiracy to commit fraud or as a result of the application of the principles of unjust enrichment, this would include the moneys paid out to Mr. Panag for his material damage claim and to Mrs. Panag for her Part VII claim.  The total amount awarded to ICBC in this regard is $188,722.86, which I am satisfied accurately represents what ICBC paid out, to which I add pre-judgment interest of $8,460.21.  I have deducted $305.06 from the interest claimed because of the absence of evidence concerning the date when expenses related to surveillance were incurred…

[70]         In providing ICBC with willfully false statements and in conspiring to commit fraud, the Panags undoubtedly engaged in conduct that was reprehensible.  In the particular circumstances of this case, however, I note that the consequences of their actions have exposed them to statutory liability far beyond the actual financial consequences of their actions.  Had they succeeded in their deception, they would have saved a mere $801 plus whatever might have been gained through a potential personal injury claim.  Now they must pay over $188,000 plus interest…

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