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Erik MagrakenThis Blog is authored by British Columbia ICBC injury claims lawyer Erik Magraken. Erik is a partner with the British Columbia personal injury law-firm MacIsaac & Company. He restricts his practice exclusively to plaintiff-only personal injury claims with a particular emphasis on ICBC injury claims involving orthopaedic injuries and complex soft tissue injuries. Please visit often for the latest developments in matters concerning BC personal injury claims and ICBC claims

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Posts Tagged ‘Reasonable Efforts’

“Standard of Perfection” Not Needed for Victims of Hit and Run Collisions

January 3rd, 2019

Reasons for judgment were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, canvassing what steps are adequate for a hit and run collision victim to take in ascertaining the identify of the offending motorist before they can successfully make a claim under s. 24 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act.

In today’s case (Ghuman v. ICBC) the Plaintiff was struck by a vehicle that fled the scene shortly after impact.  The Plaintiff’s wife was in a separate vehicle nearby but did not notice the collision.  The Plaintiff drove away from the scene and did not find any other witnesses.  The Plaintiff sued ICBC as nominal Defendant in the place of the at fault motorist under s. 24 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act.

ICBC argued the plaintiff should not be compensated for his injuries as he failed to take all reasonable efforts in identifying the offending motorist.  Madam Justice Donegan rejected this argument finding a standard of perfection is not required under the legislation and that the plaintiff acted reasonably in the circumstances.  In addressing the required standard for victims of hit and run collisions the Court noted as follows:

[62]         Overall, I find the plaintiff acted reasonably at the time of the Collision and its immediate aftermath, but was unable to obtain the required information. The driver of the SUV immediately fled the scene. The lead vehicle left quickly as well. There were no other potential witnesses in the area of the Collision, other than perhaps Mr. Ghuman’s wife, but she was unaware the Collision even occurred. In these circumstances, I think a reasonable person would believe this low-impact accident was not so obvious that others in the area would have even seen it, let alone observed details of the offending vehicle in the seconds before it fled the area.

[63]         However, as the case authorities make clear, the requirement to make all reasonable efforts to ascertain the identity of the other driver and owner is not limited to the immediate aftermath of the Collision. Mr. Ghuman must be found to have also made all reasonable efforts to ascertain the identity of the unknown driver and owner in the days and weeks that followed.

[64]         In those days and weeks, Mr. Ghuman took several steps to try and ascertain the identity of the SUV, its driver or owner.

[65]         He called police the following day and gave them all of the information he had. He also reported the Collision to ICBC the following day and followed up with the written claim form a few days later.

[66]         Within a week of the Collision, Mr. Ghuman posted flyers seeking witnesses around the intersection where the Collision occurred. He retained counsel shortly thereafter to protect his interests and within about a month of the Collision, his counsel arranged for more signs seeking witnesses to be posted around the intersection and for an advertisement seeking witnesses to run for a week in the local newspaper.

[67]         None of the above efforts generated any witnesses to the Collision or any information that might have led to the identity of the SUV, its driver and owner.

[68]         ICBC identifies two steps that Mr. Ghuman did not take in the days and weeks following the Collision as a basis for finding that Mr. Ghuman did not make all reasonable efforts. It points to Mr. Ghuman’s failure to follow up with police and his failure to canvass business in the Strawberry Hill complex for potential video recordings or records of witnesses who may have come forward to those businesses.

[69]         I agree with the observations of Justice DeWitt-Van Oosten in Rieveley that there are often other steps that a plaintiff could have taken in particular circumstances, but that s. 24(5) of the Act does not demand that a plaintiff make every conceivable effort to show it was not possible to ascertain the identity of the unknown driver or owner. Rather, what is required is that a “plaintiff act reasonably in light of surrounding circumstances, including the information known to him or her at the material time”: Rieveley at paras. 36-37.

[70]         Mr. Ghuman did not follow up with police following his initial call because he reasonably believed police would not investigate the Collision and/or that any investigation would be fruitless. Mr. Ghuman reported the Collision to police because he understood that the law obliged him to, but given the circumstances of the Collision and the presence of only very generic information about the SUV, Mr. Ghuman’s belief that police would not investigate or such an investigation would be fruitless is reasonable. I accept there was little benefit in following up with the Surrey RCMP in these circumstances. To do so would be highly unlikely to produce any results.

[71]         Mr. Ghuman did not check with businesses near the area for video surveillance and/or records of witnesses who may have come forward because he relied on another person, his wife, who told him that she was making some of those efforts. Not admissible for the truth that those steps were actually taken, Mr. Ghuman’s belief that some of those steps were being done does provide a reasonable explanation why he did not undertake them himself.

[72]         I wish to make it very clear that there is no admissible evidence before me that those efforts (canvassing for video surveillance and/or seeking records of potential witnesses that may have come forward to nearby businesses) were made. However, in the circumstances of this case, I would not consider such extensive efforts necessary in order for this plaintiff to comply with s. 24(5). Given the distances of the surrounding businesses from the Collision site and the layout of the area, I accept there would have been little benefit in contacting businesses for video surveillance and/or records of people who may have come forward to those businesses. Such efforts would be highly unlikely to produce any results.

[73]         In the end, Mr. Ghuman is not to be held to the standard of perfection. Even if the timing of his telephone call to police and his lack of follow up with police could be viewed as something less than reasonable in and of themselves, I agree with the plaintiff that what is reasonable in all of the circumstances of one case does not rise and fall on a single effort. What sets this case apart from other cases provided is that Mr. Ghuman was faced with a driver who immediately fled the scene of a low impact type of accident in an area with transient traffic, surrounded by parking lots. Despite these obvious limitations in obtaining information regarding that vehicle’s identity, Mr. Ghuman nevertheless chose to take several positive steps to investigate. He was proactive from the outset. That he was unsuccessful is of no consequence. All that is required is that he take all reasonable steps to ascertain the identity of the unknown driver and owner of the SUV. I find that he did in the circumstances of this case.

[74]         For all of these reasons, I find the plaintiff has met the onus upon him to establish that he made all reasonable efforts to ascertain the identity of the SUV’s owner and driver under s. 24(5) of the Act and that the identity of the unknown owner and driver of the SUV is not ascertainable. Accordingly, ICBC is appropriately named as the nominal defendant to this action and liability is found against ICBC.


BC Court of Appeal Rejects ICBC's Argument for "Expanded" Hit and Run Victim Obligations

October 27th, 2011

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Court of Appeal rejecting ICBC’s arguments trying to impose “expanded” requirements for hit and run victims to be compensated for their injuries.

By way of background individuals injured by unidentified motorists can sue ICBC directly for compensation but there are statutory requirements that need to be complied with to succeed with such a claim.  The most litigated issue in these claims is whether the Plaintiff took “all reasonable efforts” to identify the at fault motorist as required by section 24(5) of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act.

In this week’s case (Nicholls v. ICBCPlaintiff was involved in a single vehicle motorcycle accident in 2005.  He lost control of his motorcycle when he “encountered a diesel fuel spill on the highway“.  He alleged an unknown motorist was at fault for leaving this spill on the road and sued ICBC directly for his damages.  ICBC applied to dismiss the lawsuit arguing the Plaintiff failed to make reasonable efforts to determine who was responsible for the diesel spill.  Mr. Justice Saunders disagreed and dismissed ICBC’s application.

ICBC Appealed arguing the trial judge applied the wrong test and that motorists must meet “an expanded test of reasonableness” in attempting to identify the unknown motorist.  The BC Court of Appeal rejected this argument finding no expanded obligation exists.  The Court provided the following reasons:

[29] The main proposition from Leggett is that the test of reasonableness in s. 24(5) has a subjective component. In the words of Taylor J.A.:

[11]      I do not think the words “not ascertainable” should be strictly interpreted, so as to mean “could not possibly have been ascertained.” I think they are to be interpreted with reference to subs. (5) so as to mean “could not have been ascertained had the claimant made all reasonable efforts, having regard to the claimant’s position, to discover them.”

[12]      The test seems to me to be subjective in the sense that the claimant must know that the vehicle has been in an accident and must have been in such a position and condition that it would be reasonable for the claimant to discover and record the appropriate information. But the claimant cannot be heard to say: “I acted reasonably in not taking the trouble to find out.”

[Emphasis added.]

[30] This is confirmed by this Court’s decision in Etter v. Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, 1999 BCCA 281, 126 B.C.A.C. 144, where Madam Justice Ryan, for the Court, stated at para. 5, that the test in s. 24(5) of the Act was summarized in para. 11 of Leggett.

[31] Thus, the only qualification on the requirement of “all reasonable efforts” in s. 24(5), is the subjective aspect of the test that requires the “position and condition” of the plaintiff to be considered in determining what efforts are reasonable in the circumstances. In all cases, the single standard to be met is one of reasonableness.

[32] In sum, I am not persuaded that the chambers judge erred in describing the test in s. 24(5) as one of reasonableness. In citing the statutory provision he was alive to the requirement on the respondent to demonstrate that “all reasonable efforts” had been made in the circumstances to ascertain the identity of the unknown tortfeasor. He then determined whether, in the circumstances of this case, considering the respondent’s subjective circumstances at the time of the accident, and based on a cost-benefit analysis of his efforts, or lack thereof, after the accident, the respondent had met the standard required by the provision. In my view, in the circumstances of this case, he did not err in adopting this approach to the issue.


ICBC Hit and Run Claim Succeeds With The "Expectation The Other Driver Would Comply With the Law"

September 12th, 2011

Useful reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, which I summarize in my continued efforts to highlight the ‘reasonable efforts’ requirement for hit and run accident victims.

In last week’s case (Singh v. Clay) the Plaintiff was injured in a handful of collisions.  In one of the incidents the Plaintiff’s vehicle was rear-ended.  Following impact the offending motorist “drove away without stopping, as the Plaintiff exited his vehicle“.  As a result the Plaintiff was unable to take down the offending vehicles licence plate number.

ICBC argued that the Plaintiff did not take reasonable efforts at the scene to identify the driver.  The Plaintiff conceded that he “could have done so but he did not look at the licence plate as he did not expect the driver to drive off as she did“.  Mr. Justice Greyell found this was a reasonable explanation and concluded the Plaintiff complied with his obligations under section 24 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act.  The Court provided the following useful comments:

[78] In the present case, Mr. Singh might have been able to take down the licence plate number of the offending vehicle if he had done so immediately.  However, he did not expect the vehicle to leave the scene of the accident.  Once it became clear that the vehicle was not going to stop, his wife made an effort to write the number down, but only got two of the letters.  Following the accident Mr. Singh took all reasonable steps to ascertain the identity of the driver.  He spoke to two witnesses, he telephoned ICBC, attended the police, phoned his lawyer to obtain advice as to how to proceed, and, as a result, put up flyers seeking witnesses.

[79] In Leggett the plaintiff’s case was dismissed because the Court found he had made a decision not to pursue his rights at the time of the accident.  In Smoluk the Court distinguishedLeggett stating, at para. 9:

[9]        In my view, the Leggett case is clearly distinguishable from this case because the plaintiff in this action made no decision not to pursue her rights. She was prevented from obtaining more information because of the precipitate departure of the wrongdoer, and in my view the plaintiff acted reasonably in taking down the license plate number which would lead any reasonable person to believe that the identity of the person had been or could easily be ascertained. The fact that she got the number wrong in such circumstances does not indicate unreasonableness.

[80] The facts in Smoluk are similar to those in this case.  The offending driver in that case drove away while the plaintiff was inspecting the damage to his vehicle.  While the driver in Smolukdid get the opportunity to take down a partial plate number Mr. Singh did not.  I find that under the circumstances his expectation the other driver would comply with the law and stop his/her vehicle was a reasonable one.  When the vehicle left the scene as he was getting out of his vehicle, it was too late to get particulars of the licence plate number.  I conclude Mr. Singh acted as a reasonable person would have acted in preserving his rights.


"Frightened" Claimant Excused From Obtaining Information From Motorist in s. 24 ICBC Claim

May 24th, 2011

As previously discussed, one of the conditions to successfully sue ICBC under section 24 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act following a hit and run collision is to take “all reasonable efforts” to ascertain the identity of the at fault motorist.  Failure to do so can be fatal to the claim.  Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Duncan Registry, discussing this requirement.

In this week’s case (Burton v. ICBC) the Plaintiff was involved in a rear-end crash in 2008.  It was a dark and rainy night and the Plaintiff was travelling alone.  Following the collision the rear motorist “immediatley began banging on the windows (of the Plaintiff’s vehicle)…(and) yelled ‘move the car off the road, let’s get this over and done with bitch’ “.  The Plaintiff remained in her vehicle and the rear motorist then “slammed (the Plaintiff’s) door, returned to his vehicle, backed away and then passed by on her right side…and disappeared from her view”.

The Plaintiff sued ICBC for damages under section 24 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act.  ICBC denied liability arguing that the Plaintiff had a reasonable opportunity to obtain the at fault motorists details and she failed to discharge her responsibilities under this section.  Mr. Justice Macaulay rejected ICBC’s arguments and awarded the Plaintiff damages.  In doing so the Court provided the following reasons:

[26] Section 24 and its predecessor have been judicially considered and applied many times. While the fact patterns in the cases are understandably divergent, there is little, if any, controversy in the law. In Leggett v. Insurance Corp. of British Columbia (1992), 72 B.C.L.R. (2d) 201 (B.C.C.A.), the Court of Appeal, referring to the predecessor section, set the bar fairly high for plaintiffs, stating at para. 9:

In my view the overall purpose of the section is to limit the exposure of [ICBC] to claims brought by persons who, in the matter of seeking to identify those responsible for the accident, have done everything they reasonably could to protect what ordinarily would be in their own interests, and which, by virtue of the section, become the interests of the corporation.

[31] I am persuaded that the fear and anxiety that Mrs. Burton felt in the circumstances provides a reasonable justification for her failure to ask the driver to properly identify himself or to attempt to identify the license plate. As a woman alone in a car at night, faced with aggressive threatening behaviour, her first concern was legitimately for her safety and to avoid confronting the driver.

[32] I accept that Mrs. Burton never chose, as did the plaintiff in Leggett, not to pursue her obligation. Instead, after reporting the matter to the police, she and her husband, along with friends, looked for the other vehicle. When they thought they might have found it, Mrs. Burton appropriately passed the information on to the police. At that point, it was reasonable, given the location of the vehicle on private property and the conduct of the driver at the time of the collision, that the police, rather than Mrs. Burton, take the investigative steps necessary to confirm whether the vehicle parked on Gibbons Road was involved. She is not responsible for their failure to do so.

[33] Also, Mrs. Burton’s obligation did not extend, in the circumstances, to doing more. I am not persuaded that postings or advertising for witnesses had any realistic prospect of eliciting information that would identify the other vehicle or the driver.

[34] I am satisfied that Mrs. Burton has satisfied the obligations that s. 24(1) places on her. She is entitled to judgment against ICBC as the nominal defendant.


ICBC Hit and Run Injury Claims: A Detailed Discussion of the "Reasonable Efforts" Obligation

March 3rd, 2011

I’ve written many times about ICBC Injury Claims involving unidentified drivers.  In short, individuals injured by unidentified motorists can sue ICBC directly for compensation but there are statutory requirements that need to be complied with to succeed with such a claim.  The most litigated issue in these claims is whether the Plaintiff took “all reasonable efforts” to identify the at fault motorist as required by section 24(5) of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act.

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, addressing this obligation and usefully setting out many of the legal principles behind what amounts to a ‘reasonable effort’.

In today’s case (Morris v. Doe) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2006 collision.  She was a passenger in her husband’s vehicle.  They were stopped at a red light and were rear-ended by an unidentified motorist.  The force of the crash caused the Plaintiff’s vehicle to collide with a stationary vehicle in front of them.  Following the crash the Plaintiff’s husband exited the vehicle and looked towards the at fault vehicle.  He motioned for the rear motorist “to pull his vehicle off to the side of the road into (a) parking lot”.  Following this the Plaintiff and front motorist pulled into the parking lot and the rear motorist drove away.

The Plaintiff sued ICBC for damages under section 24.  The case was dismissed with Madam Justice Ker finding that the Plaintiff failed to make all reasonable efforts to identify the at-fault motorist.  Prior to reaching this conclusion the Court provided the following useful summary of past cases addressing ‘reasonable efforts’ in ICBC hit and run injury claims:

[55]         An examination of the jurisprudence on what constitutes reasonable efforts reveals the following principles:

a.       depending on the plaintiff’s condition at the scene of the accident, it may not be realistic to expect the plaintiff to obtain particulars as to the identity of the offending driver particularly where the plaintiff is in shock or confused or injured: Tessier; Hocaluk; Ingram v. ICBC (1994), 45 B.C.A.C. 218 [Ingram]; Holloway v. ICBC, 2007 BCCA 175, at para. 14; Larsen v. Doe, 2010 BCSC 333 [Larsen]; Becker v. ICBC, 2002 BCSC 1106 [Becker], at para. 20; Nelson at paras. 19-20

b.       failure to record a licence plate number at the time of the accident when the plaintiff has the opportunity to do so or obtain information as to the driver’s identity, either personally or through the assistance of others, but does not take advantage of the opportunity amounts to a failure to take reasonable steps at the time of the accident: Burley at paras. 23-24;Watson v. Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, 2004 BCSC 1695 [Watson]; Cannon v. ICBC, 2005 BCSC 602;

c.       simply notifying the police of the accident may not be sufficient to satisfy the requirements of s. 24(5): Tessier at para. 17; Becker at para. 18;

d.       the Act does not put the responsibility to find the unidentified driver on the police; rather the responsibility lies with the plaintiff: Becker at para. 17

e.       where a plaintiff does notify the police of the accident, it is not reasonable for them to simply assume the police will make the necessary inquiries without following up with the police and checking to see if there was an investigation and if so what progress was being made in it: Becker at paras. 17-18; Tessier at para. 17; Goncalves at para 23;

f.        simply reporting the matter to the police and ICBC, without more, has led to the dismissal of a plaintiff’s action for failure to comply with the requirement of taking all reasonable steps to ascertain the identity of the driver: Meghji v. ICBC, [1998] B.C.J. No. 3107 (P.C.) (QL);

g.       where the police attend the scene of the accident and take witness statements and indicate they are investigating the hit and run accident, it may not be necessary for the plaintiff to take any additional steps, depending on the circumstances: Hough v. Doe, 2006 BCSC 1450 [Hough], at paras. 16-17 & 21; Ingram at para. 13;

h.       a plaintiff placed in a position of danger at the time of the accident cannot be expected to remain in that position to obtain details of a licence plate and movement to a position of safety before trying to obtain any licence information does not constitute a failure to take reasonable steps at the scene of the accident: Nelson at paras. 19-20;

i.        posting signs in the area of the accident and/or advertising in local newspapers in an effort to find witnesses within a reasonable time after the accident where the accident occurs at a busy intersection is a reasonable and expected step as it is possible that someone present at the time of the accident could be of assistance in ascertaining the identity of the driver of the vehicle that left the scene: Johal v. ICBC (1992), 9 C.C. L.I. (2d) 172 [Johal]; Fan v. Doe, 2009 BCSC 568 [Fan]; Nelson at paras. 21-22; Godara at paras. 51-54;Tessier at para. 17; Halfyard v. ICBC (1993), 26 C.C.L.I. (2d) 320 [Halfyard];

j.        failing to post signs at the scene of the accident or place advertisements in the newspaper in a timely manner or in a manner that provides insufficient detail where it is possible that there were potential witnesses who may have information about the accident will result in a denial of coverage under s. 24 of the Act: Johal; Fan; Burley; Becker; Nelson at paras. 21-22; Jennings v. ICBC, 2002 BCSC 341;

k.       repeatedly canvassing regular patrons of the business where the plaintiff’s vehicle was damaged in the parking lot of the business may constitute reasonable steps to ascertain the identity of the driver: Janzen v. Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, 2004 BCPC 437;

l.        posting signs and advertising in local newspapers may not be a reasonable step where the accident occurs on a high speed area of highway or a on highway in an area that is undeveloped and sparsely populated: Hough at para. 24; Goncalves at para. 16-21;

m.      once it is found that a plaintiff acted reasonably in believing they had the information that would be required, such as a licence plate number, there is no onus cast upon them to undertake a highly speculative further investigation upon being advised they have the wrong license plate number: Smoluk v. ICBC (1993), 26 B.C.A.C. 23 [Smoluk]; Walker v. Farnel (1995), 36 C.C.L.I. (2d) 312, at para. 24;

n.       a plaintiff will not be foreclosed from pursuing ICBC as the nominal defendant in a hit and run case where they rely upon information provided by the offending driver that subsequently turns out to be untruthful: Mudrie v. Grove, 2010 BCSC 1113, at paras. 33-36;

o.       failure to follow up on directions to take additional steps such as posting signs for witnesses or advertising, once advised the recorded licence plate number is incorrect will result in a denial of coverage under s. 24 of the Act: Watson;

p.       failing to make a timely report to the police and failing to follow up on available information from the scene of the accident such as information in the possession of ambulance personnel who attended the scene will result in a denial of coverage under s. 24 of the Act: Johal;

q.       the failure of ICBC adjusters to advise the plaintiff that other steps to try and ascertain the identity of the driver should be undertaken does not relieve a plaintiff of the obligation to take all reasonable steps to ascertain the unknown driver’s identity: Tessier at para. 19.

[56]         As the jurisprudence demonstrates, what constitutes reasonable steps varies with the circumstances of each case. However, where it was not reasonable to obtain information that would assist in ascertaining the identity of the driver at the time of the accident, taking no steps at the second stage in the days or weeks after the accident, cannot amount to discharging the clear onus placed upon a plaintiff to take reasonable steps to ascertain the identity of the unknown driver.