Circumstantial Evidence and ICBC Unidentified Motorist Claims

Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, dismissing a Plaintiff’s ICBC Claim alleging that an unidentified motorist caused a significant collision.
In last week’s case (Paguio v. Fraser) the Plaintiff was injured when his scooter collided with another vehicle.  The Plaintiff suffered a “serious head injury” and his ability to give evidence surrounding the circumstances of the crash were limited.
The Plaintiff conceded that the vehicle he collided with did nothing wrong but alleged that an unidentified motorist cut the plaintiff off forcing him into the other vehicle.  Mr. Justice Williams rejected this argument concluding that on a balance of probabilities the evidence did not support such a finding.  Prior to doing so the Court listed the following applicable principles when faced with a claim based on circumstantial evidence:

[60]I must be guided by certain basic concepts that govern the approach that must be taken to the proof of a plaintiff’s case where it rests on a base of circumstantial evidence. In Tweedie v. ICBC, 2002 BCSC 1937, Mr. Justice Wilson provided a helpful discussion of the approach that must be taken to the proof of a plaintiff’s case where it rests on a base of circumstantial evidence and provided reference to the applicable authorities.

[61] The principles as I understand are these:

(a)      Where a case is not proved by direct evidence, the court will carefully examine and consider the relevant circumstantial evidence.

(b)      Circumstantial evidence derives its effect through the process of the trier of fact drawing reasonable inferences. That is a cognitive process whereby, once certain facts are established or proven, then a logical conclusion is considered. It is the process of reasoning from a proven fact or facts to a reasonable, rational and logically legitimate conclusion.

(c)      The drawing of an inference is different than mere conjecture or a guess, no matter how shrewd or plausible that guess might be.

(d)      An inference, once properly drawn, must give rise to a reasonable conviction in the mind of the trier of fact that the element of which proof is necessary is at least more likely than not, or to some greater degree of certainty.

(e)      The plaintiff can succeed in proving his case on the strength of a reasonable inference which gives rise to a conclusion that the element has been proven on a balance of probabilities. If the inference does not support the conclusion to that standard, then the proof is not made out.

[62] In the final analysis, applying these guiding principles, and having examined the evidence carefully, I have concluded that the circumstantial evidence proffered by the plaintiff does not enable me to find that the case has been proven to the necessary standard. The plaintiff has not met the onus of proof he bears to establish his claim and it must therefore stand dismissed.

bc injury law, circumstantial evidence, Mr. Justice Williams, Paguio v. Fraser, section 24 Insurance (Vehicle) Act

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ERIK
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When not writing the BC Injury Law Blog, Erik is the managing partner at MacIsaac & Company, based in Victoria, B.C. He is also involved with combative sports regulatory issues and authors the Combat Sports Law Blog.

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