Knowingly riding in a vehicle involved in a collision where the at fault driver does not have the owner’s consent can lead to legal headaches when it comes to being compensated for injuries. Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Kamloops Registry, dealing with such a potential scenario.
In this week’s case (Schoenhalz v. Reeves) the Plaintiff was badly injured while riding as a passenger in a vehicle involved in a 2007 collision. The Plaintiff suffered spinal fractures, various burns to her body, dental injuries and a pelvic fracture. Damages of $282,992 were assessed.
The driver of the vehicle was found to be at fault. The Court found, however, that the driver of the vehicle was not operating it with either the express or implied consent of the owner. Accordingly the lawsuit against the vehicle owner was dismissed. The driver was 15 years of age at the time and did not have a license. The Court concluded that “at the time of the accident (the Plaintiff) knew that (the driver) was age 15 and did not have a driver’s license.”.
Why does this matter? While this judgement did not get into collections issues such a finding could be problematic.
Typically a 15 year old uninsured motorist would have no means to satisfy a quarter million dollar judgement. This leaves the issue of insurance. In ‘no consent‘ situations ICBC treats the collision as uninsured leaving an injured plaintiff with only the ability to collect damages under either section 20 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act or under their own Underinsured Motorist Protection plan (UMP).
While the above insurace plans often are valuable in satisfying an uninsured judgement, there are exceptions as to who can access these. One such exclusion deals with knowingly being in a vehicle without driver consent. A Plaintiff cannot access section 20 uninsured motorist funds if they “at the time of the accident as a result of which the bodily injury, death or loss of or damage to property was suffered, was an operator of, or a passenger in or on, a vehicle that the person knew or ought to have known was being operated without the consent of the owner, and, in the case of a leased motor vehicle, the lessee.”
A similar exclusion exists if a Plaintiff seeks to access their own UMP coverage. Section 148(4)(c) of the Insurance (Vehicle) Regulation lets ICBC off the hook in circumstances where the Plaintiff ” is an operator of, or a passenger in or on, a vehicle that the insured knew or ought to have known was being operated without the consent of the owner.”
When seeking to collect the judgement from ICBC such a judicial finding may cause ICBC to deny payment on the basis that a person “ought to know” that an owner likely is not providing consent to an unlicensed individual operating the vehicle. This area of law has received scarce judicial commentary but these coverage exclusions should serve as a stark reminder to individuals considering taking a ride with an unlicensed driver.