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


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.

bc injury law, Burton v. ICBC, Hit and Run Claims, Mr. Justice Macaulay, Reasonable Efforts, 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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