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Tag: icbc fault

ICBC, Tort Claims and Admitting the Issue of Fault

Reasons for judgement were released today dismissing a claim where a Plaintiff sued ICBC alleging that ICBC infringed on her right to ‘freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression” as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
This is a somewhat unusual judgement.  The Plaintiff was involved in a car accident in 2003.  She was apparently ticketed for her driving and ‘she felt alright with accepting total fault for the accident, because her car was in the pathway (of the other vehicle) when his car collided with hers.’
The other driver made a tort claim against the Plaintiff thereby triggering her policy of insurance with ICBC.  ICBC appointed a lawyer and defended the claim.  Ultimately the claim settled and the Plaintiff was indemnified for the damages she had to pay to settle the other motorists tort claim.
In the lawsuit ICBC denied that their insured was at fault.  ICBC often does this even if the Defendant is likely at fault for an accident.  The Plaintiff appeared displeased with this decision.  Some friction arose between the Plaintiff and her insurer ICBC.   This friction surrounded meetings between the Plaintiff and her ICBC appointed lawyer in preparing her for her evidence at an examination for discovery.    The Plaintiff was apparently concerned that her lawyer was ‘trying to influence her version of how the motor vehicle accident occurred‘.’  Ultimately ICBC sent the Plaintiff a letter informing her that ‘there is some indication that (the Plaintiff) did not meet a condition of your insurance contract‘.  The condition referenced in the letter was apparently the condition of an insured to co-operate with ICBC as required by s. 73 of the Insurance Vehicle Regulation.
This letter triggered the above lawsuit whereby the Plaintiff alleged ICBC infringed her Charter rigths.  ICBC applied to dismiss the claim arguing that the lawsuit contained no bona fide triable issue.  Mr.  Justice Halfyard agreed with ICBC and dismissed the claim.  In doing so he found that “I think it is arguable that the statement of claim could be amended so as to allege a cause of action for conspiracy to suborn perjury…In my opinion, no useful purpose would be served in allowing the Plaintiff to amend the statement of claim.  It is my opinion that most of the possible causes of action fail to disclose any reasonable claim, and those that might be amended so as to allege causes of action for intimidation and conspiracy to suborn perjury are bound to fail‘.
This case, while a little off the beaten path, goes to show that ICBC (in the course of defending one of their insured in a tort claim) has the right to decide whether the issue of fault for an accident will be admitted.  As Mr. Justice Halfyard notes, 
 It was counsel’s duty to assess Ms. Joe’s statement of how the accident occurred, and to then advise I.C.B.C. as to whether or not liability should be admitted.  Under the regulations, I.C.B.C. had the exclusive authority to decide whether liability would be admitted, in whole or in part, on behalf of Ms. Joe.  Many cases occur in which I.C.B.C admits 100% liability on behalf of insured drivers who deny they were at fault for the accident.  In the present case, there was nothing improper in defence counsel and I.C.B.C. taking the initial position that Mr. Knight was partly at fault for the accident.  Mr. Knight had apparently admitted he was not wearing a seat belt.  That position was also justified by Ms. Joe’s description of her actions, even accepting the statement she claims to have consistently given.  But counsel would understandably want to pin down the version of events that she would be giving on discovery, in the circumstances of this case.  That could never amount to an attempt to make Ms. Joe deny that she was at fault.  It was for counsel to predict what degree of fault should be attributed to her, based on her own statement and the other circumstances surrounding the accident.
If you feel you are at fault for an accident the best thing you can do is let ICBC know this in no uncertain terms.  If any indication is given that ‘an insured’ is not at fault for an accident ICBC will likely put the issue of fault into play in any subsequent tort claim.

Left Turn Inersection Crashes and the Law in BC

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court concerning a 2005 intersection crash that occurred in the lower mainland of BC.
The Plaintiff was making a left hand turn from Hastings onto Willingdon.  At the same time the Defendant was operating a vehicle coming the opposite direction on Hastings.  A collision occurred.  There were no independent witnesses to this crash.  Both the Plaintiff and Defendant testified and as can be expected their evidence differed to several facts with each blaming the other for the crash.
Madam Justice Dardi preferred the Plaintiff’s evidence over the Defendant’s finding the Defendant testified in ‘an evasive and less straightforward manner’.
The court found that the Plaintiff was clearing the intersection on a stale yellow light and at the time the Defendant entered the intersection ‘it was not safe from him to do so on a very late stage amber or red light.  He should have stopped’.  The court found the Defendant 100% responsible for this intersection crash.
In reaching this decision Madam Justice Dardi summarized the law relating to left-hand turn intersection crashes as follows:

[34]            Section 174 of the Motor Vehicle Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 318 [MVA], governs the right-of-way in situations where a driver is making a left turn:

When a vehicle is in an intersection and its driver intends to turn left, the driver must yield the right of way to traffic approaching from the opposite direction that is in the intersection or so close as to constitute an immediate hazard, but having yielded and given a signal as required by sections 171 and 172, the driver may turn the vehicle to the left, and traffic approaching the intersection from the opposite direction must yield the right of way to the vehicle making the left turn.

[35]            An immediate hazard exists if the oncoming vehicle must make a sudden or violent avoiding action to prevent a collision: Aerabi-Boosheri v. Retallick, [1996] B.C.J. No. 143 at para. 8.

[36]            Section 128 of the MVA governs the duties of drivers when a traffic light turns yellow.  It states, as far as is relevant, as follows:

128      (1)        When a yellow light alone is exhibited at an intersection by a traffic control signal, following the exhibition of a green light,

(a)        the driver of a vehicle approaching the intersection and facing the yellow light must cause it to stop before entering the marked crosswalk on the near side of the intersection, or if there is no marked crosswalk, before entering the intersection, unless the stop cannot be made in safety…

[37]            Who has the statutory right-of-way is informative; however, it does not determine liability in an accident.  Drivers with the statutory right-of-way must still exercise caution to avoid accidents where possible.  In Walker v. Brownlee, [1952] 2 D.L.R. 450, Cartwright J. states at paras. 46-47:

[46]      The duty of a driver having the statutory right-of-way has been discussed in many cases.  In my opinion it is stated briefly and accurately in the following passage in the judgment of Aylesworth J.A., concurred in by Robertson C.J.O., in Woodward v. Harris, [1951] O.W.N. 221 at p. 223: “Authority is not required in support of the principle that a driver entering an intersection, even although he has the right of way, is bound to act so as to avoid a collision if reasonable care on his part will prevent it.  To put it another way: he ought not to exercise his right of way if the circumstances are such that the result of his so doing will be a collision which he reasonably should have foreseen and avoided.”

[47]      While the judgment of the Court of Appeal in that case was set aside and a new trial ordered [[1952] 1 D.L.R. 82] there is nothing said in the judgments delivered in this Court to throw any doubt on the accuracy of the statement quoted.

The Plaintiff suffered from various soft tissue injuries.  The court summarized the Plaintiff’s injuries at paragraph 57 as follows:
[57]            Dr. Steinson was an impressive witness.  I accept his opinion that the plaintiff has developed a myofascial pain syndrome in his neck and trapezius as a consequence of the injury in the motor vehicle accident.  I also find that the episodic pain that the plaintiff continues to experience is mild to moderate.  Dr. Steinson’s prognosis for the plaintiff is guarded.  Based on the medical evidence, the likelihood is that the plaintiff’s symptoms will continue to improve over the next few years although there is a possibility that his episodic pain may persist further into the future
The court awarded the following damages:

(1)        Non-pecuniary loss $30,000;

(2)        Loss of future earning capacity $20,000;

(3)        Cost of future care $2,000; and

(4)        Special damages $500.