With the first heavy snow of 2012 hitting the Lower Mainland and Greater Victoria comes the expected increase in motor vehicle collisions. With this in mind I’m republishing a post I originally wrote in the early days of this blog reminding injured passengers of the consequences of minimizing details of wrongdoing when reporting a collision to ICBC:
Snow in BC has two reliable results 1. Car Accidents, 2. Phone calls to ICBC and lawyers about those car accidents. The second is particularly true in Victoria and Vancouver because of the local populations relative inexperience dealing with winter driving conditions.
In anticipation of the almost certain phone calls I will receive this week I write this post.
If you are the driver involved in a single vehicle accident in British Columbia, and you lost control due to the weather, all you can likely claim from ICBC are Part 7 Benefits. There is (except in some unusually peculiar situations such as an ICBC insured driver contributing to the road hazards) in all likelihood no claim from ICBC for pain and suffering and other losses in these circumstances. Your right to claim pain and suffering and other “tort” damages only arises if someone else is at fault for your injuries. In single vehicle accidents drivers usually only have themselves or the weather to blame.
If someone else contributed to the accident (perhaps the road maintenance company for failing to act in a timely fashion or perhaps a mechanic for failing to bring your vehicle up to snuff last time you had it inspected) you will have to make a claim against them. Chances are they are not insured through ICBC for such claims and instead you will have to claim against their policy of private insurance.
Now, if you are a passenger in a single vehicle, weather related accident, and your driver did not operate the vehicle safely in all the circumstances (for example driving too fast for the known or anticipated poor road conditions) and this caused or contributed to the collision then you can bring a tort claim against them in addition to claiming your Part 7 Benefits.
If you are advancing a tort claim against a driver be weary of the defence of “inevitable accident”. ICBC defends claims. One of the best defences to a weather related accident is that it was “inevitable”. What this means is that the driver, operating safely, could not have avoided losing control of his vehicle. If this can be proven then the tort claim can be defeated.
People naturally don’t want to get those known to them in trouble and it is all too common for passengers reporting such a claim to ICBC to readily agree to how unexpected the accident was and how the driver was operating the vehicle very carefully. If this is true that’s fine. My words of caution are as follows: If the driver was not careful and you give ICBC the alternate impression with a view towards helping the driver out, your statement may severely damage your ability to bring a tort claim.
Tell the truth and know what’s at stake when doing so. If ICBC gets the false impression that an accident was inevitable you will have a much harder time advancing or settling your tort claim.
The bottom line is this: If an accident truly is inevitable and there is no tort claim so be it, but, don’t lead ICBC to this conclusion if it isn’t true. Doing so will harm your claim for lawful compensation.