Tag: ICBC Hit and Run Claims

Unidentified Motorist Claims and the "Fixed Pie" of ICBC Funds


Reasons for judgement were released this week discussing the division of the limited funds available from ICBC when multiple parties successfully sue ICBC for damages as a result of injuries caused by an unidentified motorist.
In today’s case (Thoreson v. ICBC) the Plaintiff and his passenger were injured in a 2002 motorcycle accident near Vernon, BC.  Their motorcycle was run off the road by an unidentified driver.    ICBC was sued under s. 24 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act and after trial the Unidentified driver was found 85% responsible for the crash and the Plaintiff driver was found 15% responsible.

Both the Plaintiff and his passenger settled the value of the claims.  The Plaintiff’s claim was settled for $125,000 and the passenger’s claim for $935,521.  To satisfy the damages both the Plaintiff and the passenger claimed damages from ICBC under section 24.  Mr. Justice Cole of the BC Supreme Court was asked determine how much of the $200,000 available in the section 24 ‘pool’ the Plaintiff was entitled to.

Ultimately the Court noted that this pool of money needs to be shared proportionately to their claims leaving the Plaintiff with only 11% of the pool or some $23,000.   The Plaintiff appealed arguing this result was unfair as the passenger was able to collect her judgement from his insurer (as he was found partially to blame).  The BC Court of Appeal dismissed the matter and upheld the trial judgement.  In doing so the Court provided the following reasons discussing the purpose behind the ICBC scheme of compensation for injury victims caused bu unidentified motorists:

[20]         Although I have some sympathy with the appellant’s predicament, in my view, his approach to the application of s. 24 ignores the legislative scheme of the applicable insurance coverage in this case and conflates a demand for payment with a claim under s. 24.

[21]         The appellant stresses that Ms. Schultz demanded payment only from Excellent.  The agreed facts for the stated case confirm this.  The judge referred to the appellant’s position in para. 15.  It was his opinion, with which I agree, that the fact Ms. Schultz demanded payment only from Excellent does not obviate the application of the plain language of s. 24.  She claimed against ICBC as a nominal defendant and obtained judgment against ICBC.  Section 24(8) states that ICBC “must” pay the amount authorized by the Act “towards satisfaction of the judgment”.  The fact Ms. Schultz demanded payment from Excellent does not alter the fact she engages s. 24 by claiming against ICBC as a nominal defendant.

[22]         There were three available coverages: no fault benefits; the s. 24 fund; Excellent’s third-party liability coverage.  Understandably, the appellant focuses on his situation, but it is mandatory to pay both no-fault benefits and the s. 24 fund.  In my view, considering the scheme of the legislation and the plain wording of s. 24, claims that attract the application of that section must be paid, and where there are multiple claims arising out of one accident, must be paid on a pro-rated basis.  This is consistent with I.C.B.C. v. Kushneriuk, 2004 BCCA 440 (the usual method of distribution is prorating).

"Prior Consistent Statements" and ICBC Unidentified Motorist Claims


Generally speaking a person is not allowed to call evidence of ‘prior consistent statements‘ at trial.  The reason is because this offends the rule against hearsay and is an improper attempt to bolster witness credibility.  There is a powerful exception to this general rule, however, and this relates to allegations that a witness is fabricating their court-room evidence.   This exception was demonstrated in reasons for judgement released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, in a personal injury lawsuit arising from a hit and run accident.
As I’ve previously written, injury victims have the right to sue ICBC for damages when involved in hit and run accidents in BC.  These are commonly referred to as section 24 claims because injury victims involved in unidentified motorist claims gain the right to sue ICBC directly through section 24 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act.
ICBC often defends section 24 claims by denying the existence of the unidentified motorist and blaming the Plaintiff for their own injuries.  When this happens the ‘recent fabrication‘ exception is triggered in effect opening the floodgates for corroborating evidence at trial.
In today’s case (Jennings v. Doe) the Plaintiff was injured when a tractor trailer cut him off and forced his vehicle off the road.  The Driver of the tractor-trailer left the scene and the Plaintiff could not identify him.  The Plaintiff sued ICBC directly for his injuries.  ICBC defended the claim denying the existence of the tractor trailer.  The Plaintiff attempted to call evidence of prior consistent statements corroborating his courtroom evidence.  ICBC objected arguing this was not permissible.  Madam Justice Baker disagreed and allowed the evidence in.  In doing so the Court gave the following very useful reasons:

[52]         Counsel for the defendants objected to the admission of the testimony of Mr. Simon and Mr. Jennings, Sr., and various documents indicating that Mr. Jennings did, at the earliest opportunity, and consistently since that time, claim that the accident had been caused by the actions of the driver of a tractor-trailer unit.  Counsel submitted, correctly, that previous “consistent” statements of a witness are normally not admissible for the truth of their contents, or to buttress the credibility of a trial witness’ testimony.  The defendants say they are not asserting a “recent” fabrication, although by implication they are asserting that Mr. Jennings has fabricated a story about how the accident happened.

[53]         In my view, earlier decisions of this court establish that in circumstances such as these, the previous out-of-court statements are admissible and relevant not for proof of the truth of the out-of-court statements but to rebut any inference that a claimant is lying because he failed to assert his present version of events at the first and any subsequent opportunity when it would be reasonable to expect him to do so, or had made inconsistent claims in the past about the circumstances of the accident.

[54]         In Vanderbyl v. Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, (1993) 79 B.C.L.R. (2d) (S.C.), at paras. 37 and 38, Mr. Justice Trainor, an experienced trial judge, set out a list of elements to be considered in assessing the credibility of a plaintiff in cases such as these.  Among the elements identified by Justice Trainor were the following:

1.  Whether the plaintiff reported the existence of the unidentified vehicle as soon as reasonably possible to the police or other persons in authority and to I.C.B.C.

2.  Whether the description of the unidentified motor vehicle given by the plaintiff was as specific as might reasonably be expected from the particular plaintiff in the circumstances.

3.  Whether the plaintiff’s testimony at trial is consistent with statements given to the police, doctors or medical attendants, family members, associated or other witnesses or to I.C.B.C.

4.  Whether the plaintiff has called witnesses to testify to whom statements were made or who might testify about the plaintiff’s actions after the incident.

8.  Whether the plaintiff’s actions following the accident are consistent with those one might reasonably expect of a person in similar circumstances.

[55]         In this case, Mr. Jennings reported the existence of the unidentified vehicle as soon as reasonably possible to the police and to the Insurer.  Mr. Jennings told drivers who stopped at the scene and the ambulance attendant ? Mr. Simon ? that a tractor-trailer unit had been involved and he attempted to make a report to police at the scene, but was prevented from doing so by the ambulance personnel who were concerned about his physical injuries.  Mr. Jennings Sr. reported the involvement of a second vehicle to the Boston Bar RCMP Detachment on the day of the accident.  Mr. Jennings Sr. reported the circumstances to the dial-a-claim adjuster by telephone and Mr. Jennings made a statement in person and in writing to an adjuster a few days after the accident.  The evidence of Mr. Simon about Mr. Jennings’ anger and his physical condition when assessed at the accident scene is consistent with what one might reasonably expect of a person in similar circumstances.   I believe Mr. Jennings, and I accept his testimony about how the accident happened.

When advancing a hit and run ICBC claim it is good practice to review hospital, ambulance, police and other records to look for ‘prior consistent statements’ in the event ICBC alleges recent fabrication at trial.

ICBC Hit and Run Injury Claims and Intentional Torts

When a person is injured in a hit and run accident where the identity of the at fault motorist is unknown ICBC can be sued directly for compensation provided that s. 24 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act is complied with.
When dealing with insurance coverage issues, there often are exclusions in coverage for claims involving intentional torts.  (at the risk of oversimplification and intentional tort is an act which caused harm through an intentional deed as opposed to a negligence claim which deals with harm caused through carelessness).  Does this insurance exclusion apply to ICBC claims under section 24?  Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Court of Appeal addressing this issue.
In today’s case (Hannah v. John Doe) the Plaintiff was injured in a purse-snatching incident.  As she was walking in a parking lot a vehicle drove by, the passenger in the vehicle ‘reached out and grabbed her purse strap and, as the van accelerated away, the plaintiff was thrown backward and dragged until her purse ripped‘.
The assailants remained unknown and the Plaintiff sued ICBC directly for her injuries under section 24.  ICBC sought to dismiss the lawsuit arguing that section 24 does not cover claims for intentional torts.  ICBC’s motion was dismissed at trial.  (click here to read my article summarizing the trial judgement) ICBC appealed advancing many of the same arguments rejected by the trial judge.
The BC High Court dismissed the appeal and in doing so provided the below reasons making it clear that s. 24 can be triggered in an intentional tort claim:
[15] One of the flaws in ICBC’s argument is that it makes no distinction between cases in which a claim for damages is advanced against an “at fault” motorist and cases in which the insurer seeks to recover from its insured the damages paid to a claimant based on an insured’s policy breach involving intentional or criminal acts.

[16] As noted above, s. 24(1) permits an action to be brought against ICBC as nominal defendant representing unidentified owners and drivers, thus affording a remedy to drivers and passengers in vehicles and to pedestrians who suffer damage where a remedy would not otherwise exist.  In Chan, Finch J.A., as he then was, held that both intentional and negligent acts could constitute “the cause of action” in a claim for damages arising out of the use or operation of a vehicle under s. 23 (now s. 24) .  In that regard, he noted, at para. 22:

I observe that s. 23 does not require proof that the injury arises out of the negligent use or operation of a motor vehicle.  It requires only that the plaintiff establish “a cause of action” against the driver (or owner) and that the injury arises out of the use or operation of a motor vehicle.  It is clear on this language that if the driver of the unidentified vehicle were proven to have intentionally driven his vehicle into collision with the plaintiff’s vehicle, the plaintiff could bring a claim under s. 23.

[25] While Citadel disapproved the reasoning in Chan in relation to the causation issue, Citadel supports the reasoning and conclusion in Chan that damage caused by an intentional or criminal act is not for that reason excluded from coverage.  That is apparent from what Binnie J. said at paras. 17-18 of Citadel:

[17]      The appellant insurer seeks to restrict coverage in arguing, for example, that in this case, indemnification should be denied because Farmer used “the vehicle for the purpose of getting weapons to the scene of a crime”, and “it is that kind of situation that should not fall . . . within the meaning of ordinary and well known activities” (transcript, at p. 18).

[18]      I am unable to agree.  Firstly, even if transporting rocks across the countryside had been the effective cause of the Vytlingams’ injuries, which it wasn’t, transportation is what motor vehicles are for.  The fact that transportation in this case was for a criminal purpose no more excludes coverage than the fact that Farmer may have been driving his vehicle on the night in question while impaired.  Innocent drivers (or pedestrians) should not be denied indemnity if struck by (to give a further example) a getaway car “transporting” bank robbers from the crime scene.  In all these cases, the tortfeasor, regardless of his or her subjective reasons for climbing into the car, is at fault as a motorist.

[26] The same point was reiterated by Binnie J. at para. 23:

Thirdly, to be quite explicit, I would reject the position … that … coverage can be denied if the tortfeasor is engaging (as here) in criminal activity.  This is not so.  The insurer is selling peace of mind to its insured and the endorsement will frequently (and properly) be invoked despite criminality, as in the case of an insured injured by a drunk driver, for example.

For the foregoing reasons, I would not accede to ICBC’s argument that s. 24(1) of the Act is restricted to cases in which the cause of action is based in negligence.

Multiple Claimants in ICBC Hit and Run Injury Claims; Sharing a Limited Pool


If you are the victim of a hit and run collision in British Columbia you can sue ICBC directly in certain circumstances to seek damages in tort.  This is so because of Section 24 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act which creates certain compensation rights for victims of hit and runs.

ICBC’s monetary liability under Section 24 arising our of the same accident is $200,000 all inclusive.  What happens when multiple people are injured in a hit and run claim and their claims exceed $200,000?  How does ICBC distribute the funds from this fixed pool?  Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court dealing with this narrow but important issue.

In today’s case (Thoreson v. ICBC) the Plaintiff and his passenger were injured in a 2002 motorcycle accident near Vernon, BC.  Their motorcycle was run off the road by an unidentified driver.    ICBC was sued under s. 24 and after trial the Unidentified driver was found 85% responsible for the crash and the Plaintiff driver was found 15% responsible.

Both the Plaintiff and his passenger settled the value of the claims.  The Plaintiff’s claim was settled for $125,000 and the passenger’s claim for $935,521.  To satisfy the damages both the Plaintiff and the passenger claimed damages from ICBC under section 24.  Mr. Justice Cole of the BC Supreme Court was asked determine how much of the $200,000 available in the section 24 ‘pool’ the Plaintiff was entitled to.

Ultimately the Court noted that this pool of money needs to be shared proportionately to their claims leaving the Plaintiff with only 11% of the pool or some $23,000.  In reaching this conclusion Mr. Justice Cole provide the following reasons:

[16] Having found that (the passenger) made a claim under s. 24 of the Act, I am also satisfied that ICBC made a payment pursuant to that section. ICBC did not blur the distinction between the coverages. Even if she wrote a demand letter to Excellent Adventures Ltd., what (the Plaintiff) does in terms of trying to collect her money cannot, in my view, affect the rights and obligations of ICBC. ICBC’s involvement with respect to the 85% liability of the unidentified driver was statutory; as a nominal defendant pursuant to the statute, not as a real defendant. Therefore, their obligations to pay are determined pursuant to the statute. Pursuant to s. 24(8), ICBC was expressly required to satisfy the judgement within the authorized limits and ICBC did so.

[17] The plaintiff also argues that s. 24 is a “social welfare” type of section and therefore should only come into play after (the passenger) has exhausted all the other available avenues of compensation. However, there is nothing in the wording of s. 24 to suggest that payment under s. 24 is secondary or excessive coverage only.

[18] The purpose of s. 24 has been set out in two cases:  Alfonso v. Insurance Corp. of British Columbia (1992), 63 B.C.L.R. (2d) 378, 88 D.L.R. (4th) 689 (C.A.) at 698, where Madam Justice Rowles commented in respect to s. 23 [now s. 24]:

The purpose of the statutory scheme created by ss. 23 and 46 of the Insurance (Motor Vehicle) Act is to provide some measure of compensation to those who have suffered injury caused by “hit and run” collisions where no common [sic] law remedy is available…

[19] In Fundytus v. Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (1989), 59 D.L.R. (4th) 131, Mr. Justice Gow states as follows, at 139:

The intent does not embrace the monetary succour provided by the “safety net” of s. 23 of the Insurance (Motor Vehicle) Act. I.C.B.C. the nominal defendant is not “the party liable” within the meaning of s. 10(2), (6) and (10) but the agency through which the person who has a cause of action as defined by s. 23 may as a matter of social welfare policy obtain some measure of monetary solace…

[20] While this is a correct statement of the policy considerations underlying s. 24, the legislation makes it very clear that ICBC must pay pursuant to s. 24(8). There is no discretion in my view. The only deductions available are for an insured claim, pursuant to s. 106 of the Regulations. This does not include a deduction for payment or amounts that could be recovered from a liable defendant or insurance payable to a liable defendant, due to vicarious liability as indemnity accrues to the tortfeasor not the claimant.

[21] Because ICBC was required to pay (the passenger) under s. 24(8) and because those payments were made, the entirety of the fund does not remain untouched and the plaintiff must share in the distribution of those funds. Pro-rata distribution is the norm, save for exceptional circumstances: I.C.B.C. v. Pozzi, 2004 BCCA 440 at para. 22, 244 D.L.R. (4th) 641. Exceptional circumstances have been found to include when an insurer makes voluntary payments under the policy: Stobbe v. Allwood Estate (1983), 81 B.C.L.R. (2d) 117, 15 C.C.L.I. (2d) 305 (S.C.). However, in the present case (the passenger) had already obtained a judgment at the time of payment. Payment on a judgment does not qualify as a voluntary payment: Henry v. Zurich Insurance Co. (1998), 49 B.C.L.R. (3d) 195, 50 C.C.L.I. (2d) 35 (S.C.). This is not a case for the discretion, to deviate from the normal distribution of funds, to be exercised.

[22] Having found that (the passenger) made a claim under s.24 of the Act and received payment pursuant to that section, this then limits the plaintiff’s recovery from ICBC pursuant to section 24 of the Act, to his pro-rata share of the $200,000 fund…

[24] The plaintiff Thoreson settled his claim for the amount of $125,000 net of his 15% liability assessment, and (the passenger) obtained judgement in the amount of $935,521.79 including costs. The following is the calculus for a pro-rata distribution of the fund:

Claimant

Settlement or Judgment sum

Proportion

Pro Rata Portion of s. 24 Funds

(the passenger)

$935,521.79

88.213%

$176,426.70

Mr. Thoreson

$125,000.00

11.786%

$23,573.30

[25] In conclusion, Mr. Thoreson is entitled to recover $23,573.30 from ICBC pursuant to s. 24 of the Act.

I should point out to my readers that there are special limitation periods and defences available in Section 24 lawsuits and these are worth reviewing when advancing such a claim.   If you are the victim of a hit and run in BC and are not familiar with these specific issues you should seek legal advice immediately to ensure your rights are protected due to the technical nature and limitations of section 24 compensation claims.

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If you would like further information or require assistance, please get in touch.

ERIK
MAGRAKEN

Personal Injury Lawyer

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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