Tag: section 24 Insurance (Vehicle) Act

More on ICBC Claims and Hit and Run Lawsuits: The "Reasonable Efforts" Requirement


Further to my previous articles on this topic, when suing ICBC for compensation for injuries sustained in a hit and run accident (Unidentified motorist claims) one of the requirements under Section 24 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act is for the claimant to make “all reasonable efforts to ascertain the identity of the unknown driver“.  If a claimant fails to do so their claim for compensation against ICBC will fail.  Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, demonstrating such a result.
In this week’s case (Gonclaves v. Doe) the Plaintiff was involved in a motor vehicle collision on Highway 1 in British Columbia in 2006.  The Plaintiff was driving a bus at the time of the crash.  His vehicle was struck by another vehicle.  After the collision the Plaintiff failed to obtain identifying information from the other motorist.  In the days and weeks following the crash the Plaintiff did not report the incident to the police or ICBC, instead he assumed his employer would take care of this.  The Plaintiff then sued ICBC under section 24 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act seeking compensation for his personal injuries.  ICBC opposed the lawsuit and asked that the case be dismissed.
Mr. Justice Harris agreed with ICBC that the Plaintiff failed to take reasonble efforts to identify the unknown motorist.  As a result the lawsuit was dismissed.  In doing so Mr. Justice Harris provided the following useful summary of the requirement for claimants to make “all reasonable efforts“:

[4]             Under s. 24 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 231, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (“ICBC”) may be the nominal defendant and liable for damages to the plaintiff for damages from a motor vehicle accident where the identities of the owner and driver of the other vehicle involved are not ascertained.

[5]             ICBC will only be liable as nominal defendant if the plaintiff has made “all reasonable efforts to ascertain the identity of the unknown owner and driver or unknown driver, as the case may be”: Insurance (Vehicle) Act, s. 24(5).

[6]             The appropriate test to determine whether all reasonable efforts have been made is: Did the plaintiff do all that he would have to identify the other parties involved if he intended to pursue legal action against them, if ICBC were not potentially liable under s. 24 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act?: Leggett v. Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (1992), 72 B.C.L.R. (2d) 201 (C.A.) at para. 13.

[7]             The requirement to make all reasonable efforts is not limited to the immediate aftermath of the collision. To satisfy this test, the plaintiff must have made all reasonable efforts at the scene of the collision to identify the other parties. The plaintiff must also have made all reasonable efforts to identify the other parties in the days and, possibly weeks, that followed the collision: Slezak v. ICBC, 2003 BCSC 1679, at para. 42.

[8]             “All reasonable efforts” does not mean “all possible efforts”. “Reasonable” means “logical, sensible and fair,” and does not mean “absurd, whimsical or unwarranted”: Slezak at para. 40.

[9]             Similarly, “not ascertainable” does not mean “could not possibly be ascertained,” but instead means “could not reasonably be ascertained”: Leggett  at para. 11.

[10]         The plaintiff is not required to take an action to identify the other parties that, while possible, is “highly unlikely” to produce any result: Liao v. Doe, 2005 BCSC 431, at para. 14.

[11]         “All reasonable efforts” includes a subjective aspect. In deciding whether all reasonable efforts were made, consideration must be given to the plaintiff’s physical and mental state at the time of the collision, and the circumstances surrounding the collision: Holloway v. I.C.B.C. and Richmond Cabs and John Doe, 2007 BCCA 175, at para. 13.

More on ICBC Claims and Hit and Run Lawsuits: The Notice Requirement

As I’ve previously written, section 24 of the BC Insurance (Vehicle) Act gives the victims of Hit and Run accidents the right to sue ICBC directly in certain circumstances.  There are exceptions and limitations to this right and one such limitation is that a Plaintiff has to give proper notice to ICBC that they intend to claim under section 24 otherwise their right to sue ICBC can be taken away.  Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, dealing with this area of law.
In today’s case (Mudrie v. Grove) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2007 rear-end collision.  After the crash the Plaintiff and the driver of the other vehicle exchanged their respective information.  The other driver identified himself as “Donald Grove“.   About a year after the crash the Plaintiff conducted a “pre-court vehicle plate search“.  The search gave rise to information which suggested that “Grove” may have provided inaccurate information about his identity.
The Plaintiff started a lawsuit naming not only Donald Grove but also ICBC as a Defendant under section 24 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act.  ICBC was named in the event that the identify of the true driver was unknown.  ICBC brought a motion to dismiss the lawsuit against them arguing that in order to sue under section 24 a Plaintiff must provide written notice to ICBC within 6 months after the accident and that the Plaintiff failed to comply with this requirement.  Mr. Justice Saunders agreed and dismissed the lawsyit against ICBC.  In doing so the Court noted as follows:
[43] I conclude on the evidence that the plaintiff’s obligation to provide written notice to ICBC under s. 24(2) did not arise at the time of the accident. However, as I have found, the negative vehicle plate search results reported on June 5, 2008 must have led – quite reasonably – to the plaintiff apprehending the potential for an unidentified driver claim; otherwise, there is no explanation for the writ having been issued with pseudonymous defendants. In the words of the Supreme Court of Canada in Peixeiro, at that point, or very shortly thereafter, the plaintiff could reasonably have discovered that he had a cause of action against ICBC. I therefore find the plaintiff did have that obligation to notify ICBC as soon as reasonably practicable, within days of June 5, 2008.

[44]         The plaintiff argues that constructive notice of the claim was given thereafter on September 4, 2008, when ICBC was contacted to determine if it had any information regarding Mr. Grove. In my view, even if I could overlook the statutory requirement that notice be in writing, this contact was nowhere close to being sufficient to discharge the plaintiff’s obligation. There is no evidence of any indication having been given to ICBC that an unidentified driver claim might be pursued.

[45]         The only notice, written or otherwise, given ICBC in this case was the writ and statement of claim. I see nothing in the statute which precludes the pleadings themselves serving as the required notice under ss. 24(2). The purpose of the notice provision is to provide ICBC with sufficient opportunity to make its own investigation of the other driver’s or owner’s identity:  Stelmock v. I.C.B.C. (1982), 42 B.C.L.R. 145 (S.C.) at para. 10; Goltzman v. McKenzie (1989), 36 B.C.L.R. (2d) 228 (C.A.). Successful identification of the driver or owner will lead to a tort claim, relieving ICBC from direct liability. If those persons are insured by ICBC, it may eventually have to make an indemnity payment on its assureds’ behalf, but may possibly then have the potential of recouping some of its loss through adjustments to those assureds’ future premiums. In the case of an out-of-province driver, ICBC may of course avoid liability altogether. Given the potential for fraud in cases of alleged hit-and-run accidents, notice to ICBC will also enable it to investigate the circumstances of the reported accident to determine if the plaintiff’s claim has merit:  Epp v. Harden Estate (1988), 24 B.C.L.R (2d) 89, 31 C.C.L.I. 229 (B.C.S.C.). These legislative purposes may be fulfilled through ICBC receiving details of an accident through a writ, as opposed to discrete advance notification that a claim will be made. And in my view the writ with its attached statement of claim, in the present case, disclosed sufficient detail that service on ICBC alone would have met the notice requirement, if it had been done in a timely manner.

[46]         This brings us to the real question in this case: whether ICBC received notification of the claim, through the writ, within the time parameters given in the statute. The writ was not served until April 2009, ten months after the negative vehicle plate search. No explanation for this delay has been offered.

[47]         In respect of interpreting the notice requirement, the plaintiff argues that the legislative purpose behind the requirement is the same as that which lies behind the two-month notice requirement to municipalities under s. 286 of the Local Government Act, R.S.B.C. 1996 c. 323: the prevention of prejudice to the defence of a government body. It is argued that this court should direct its inquiry into whether ICBC has been prejudiced by the late notification; the logic of that argument is that ICBC cannot be presumed to have been prejudiced, when the trail left by “Mr. Grove” would already have gone cold by the time the plaintiff ought to have realized this was an unidentified driver case. The notice provisions of the two statutes are, however, entirely different. Under the Local Government Act, there is a blanket requirement that notice of claims falling within the ambit of s. 286 be delivered within two months, but subsection (3) specifically provides that the failure to give notice, or sufficient notice, is not a bar to maintaining an action if the court believes (a) there was reasonable excuse, and (b) the municipality has suffered no prejudice. In contrast, under the Insurance (Vehicle) Act’s s.24, the obligation is to give notice as soon as reasonably practicable, and in any event – meaning, whether reasonably practicable or not – within six months.

[48]         If the prevention of prejudice could be said to be the dominant purpose of the notice requirement, it would appear that the legislature has either deemed there to be prejudice after six months has elapsed, or has otherwise determined, as a matter of policy, that ICBC’s exposure to such claims ought to be capped at that point. To subject that provision to an overarching, implied test involving the finding of real prejudice would be tantamount to rewriting the statute. The most that could be said is that a consideration of prejudice might, in certain circumstances, be implied by the qualifier “reasonably”. But even so, that cannot assist the plaintiff in the present case, when notice was not given to ICBC until long after the six-month period had lapsed.

[49]         ICBC was not notified of this claim within six months of when the plaintiff could reasonably have discovered that he had a cause of action against ICBC. The claim against ICBC is therefore dismissed. The parties are at liberty to make written submissions as to costs.

More on Circumstantial Evidence and Your ICBC Injury Claim


Further to my previous post on this topic, historic reasons for judgement were released today on the BC Supreme Court website demonstrating that circumstantial evidence can be enough for a Plaintiff to win their ICBC injury claim.
In today’s case (Tweedie v. ICBC) the Plaintiff was injured while out for a morning jog in 1999.  There were no witnesses to the incident that injured the Plaintiff.  The result of the Plaintiff’s trauma was such that she could not remember how she was injured.   In her dazed state of mind she initially thought she tripped while jogging however, on learning about how serious her injuries were (these included several broken ribs, multiple fractured bones in her foot and a fractured fibula) the Plaintiff assumed she must have been struck by a vehicle.
The Plaintiff sued ICBC directly for compensation under s. 24 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act (the section dealing with unidentified motorist claims).  ICBC denied liability arguing there was no proof that a motor vehicle collision caused the injuries and that even if the injuries were caused by a vehicle there was no proof that the driver of the vehicle was negligent.  Mr. Justice Wilson disagreed and found that ICBC is liable for the Plaintiff’s injuries as a result of the collision.  In reaching this verdict the Court relied exclusively on circumstantial evidence.  Mr. Justice Wilson provide the following useful summary of the law regarding finding fault in an injury claim based wholly on circumstantial evidence:

[3]           The principles are well-established for assessing liability where the evidence is circumstantial, but it is still useful to refer to them.  In the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in Montreal Tramways Company v. Leveille, [1933] S.C.R. 456, the Court considered the claim of injury, a deformity to an unborn child alleged to have been brought about as a result of the child’s mother falling while on the tramway.  At p. 466, Mr. Justice Lamont considered the issue of whether there was evidence on which the jury could reasonably find the existence of a causal relationship between the accident to the mother and the deformity of the child’s feet, and said this:

The general principle in accordance with which in cases like the present the sufficiency of the evidence is to be determined was stated by Lord Chancellor Loreburn inRichard Evans & Co., Limited v. Astley, [1911] A.C. 678 as follows:

It is, of course, impossible to lay down in words any scale or standard by which you can measure the degree of proof which will suffice to support a particular conclusion of fact.  The applicant must prove his case.  This does not mean that he must demonstrate his case.  If the more probable conclusion is that for which he contends, and there is anything pointing to it, then there is evidence for a court to act upon.  Any conclusion short of certainty may be miscalled conjecture or surmise but courts, like individuals, habitually act upon a balance of probabilities.

There was undoubtedly evidence to go to the jury that the mother’s accident was caused by the fault of the Company, and the jury’s finding on that point cannot be disturbed.  That such fault caused the deformity of the child cannot, from the nature of things, be established by direct evidence.  It may, however, be established by a presumption or inference drawn from facts proved to the satisfaction of the jury.  These facts must be consistent one with the other and must furnish data from which the presumption can be reasonably drawn.  It is not sufficient that the evidence affords material for a conjecture that the child’s deformity may have been due to the consequences

of the mother’s accident.  It must go further and be sufficient to justify a reasonable man in concluding, not as a mere guess or conjecture, but as a deduction from the evidence, that there is a reasonable probability that the deformity was due to such accident.

At p. 469, he referred to the decision of the House of Lords in Jones v. G.W. Rly. Co. (1930), 47 T.L.R. 39, in which the Court had to consider whether there was evidence on which a jury could properly find negligence on the part of the defendant’s servants which caused or contributed to the death of a husband of the first plaintiff.  He quoted from the decision of Lord MacMillan:

The dividing line between conjecture and inference is often a very difficult one to draw.  A conjecture may be plausible, but it is of no legal value, for its essence is that it is a mere guess.  An inference in the legal sense, on the other hand, is a deduction from the evidence and if it is a reasonable deduction, it may have the validity of legal proof.  The attribution of an occurrence to a cause is, I take it, always a matter of inference.  The cogency of a legal inference of causation may vary in degree between practical certainty and reasonable probability.  Where the coincidence of cause and effect is not a matter of actual observation there is necessarily a hiatus in the direct evidence, but this may be legitimately bridged by an inference from the facts actually observed and proved.

And then, on p. 474, after considering the difference in the jurisprudence in Quebec under the Civil Code and in the rest of Canada under the common law, he said:

… under either the French or English jurisprudence, the presumptions or inferences to be receivable as proof must be a deduction from established facts which produce a reasonable conviction in the mind that the allegation of which proof is required is probably true.  That conviction may vary in degree between “practical certainty” and “reasonable probability”….

The question, however, is whether he instructed the jury sufficiently?  In a case such as this it is, in my opinion, essential that the judge should instruct the jury that the presumption which they are entitled to admit as proof must not be a mere guess on their part, but must be a reasonable deduction from such facts as they shall find to be established by the evidence.

That is the standard which must be met here, where I am the trier of fact.

[4]           In a decision of the British Columbia Court of Appeal, Plett v. Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (1987), 12 B.C.L.R. (2d) 336, under the heading “Circumstantial evidence”, at p. 341, Mr. Justice Wallace said this:

In cases such as this, in which the evidence is circumstantial, inferences of negligence cannot be drawn unless there are positive proven facts from which such inferences can be made.

In Caswell v. Powell Duffryn Associated Collieries Ltd., [1940] A.C. 152, [1939] All E.R. 722 (H.L.) a case concerning an industrial accident to a workman, Lord Wright stated at pp. 169-170 what is, in my respectful opinion, the correct approach to a case which turns solely on circumstantial evidence:

My Lords, the precise manner in which the accident occurred cannot be ascertained as the unfortunate young man was alone when he was killed.  The Court therefore is left to inference or circumstantial evidence.  Inference must be carefully distinguished from conjecture or speculation.  There can be no inference unless there are objective facts from which to infer the other facts which it is sought to establish.  In some cases the other facts can be inferred with as much practical certainty as if they had actually been observed.  In other cases the inference does not go beyond reasonable probability.  But if there are no positive proved facts from which the inference can be made, the method of inference fails and what is left is mere speculation or conjecture.

In the present case there are, I think, certain known facts which enable some inferences to be drawn.  Beyond that point the method of inference stops and what is suggested is conjecture.  It is not necessary to recapitulate the facts which have been fully stated by my noble and learned friend, Lord Atkin.  I shall be content to state what I regard as proved by the method of inference, and reject what appears to be made to be a matter merely of conjecture.

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.

Pedestrian Found Partially At Fault for Injuries for Failing to Use Sidewalk


Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, dealing with the duty of Pedestrians to use a sidewalk or crosswalk where one is available.
In today’s case (Larsen v. Doe) the pedestrian Plaintiff was struck by a vehicle while “walking in a T intersection normally used by vehicles“.  There was no marked pedestrian walkway where the collision occurred however there was a sidewalk nearby and “if the pedestrian had taken the sidewalk, her path would cross the street within the unmarked crosswalk much closer to the stop sign from which the vehicle departed“.  The collision was a hit and run and the identity of the driver/owner of the vehicle remained unknown at the time of trial.
As permitted by section 24 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act the Plaintiff sued ICBC directly as a nominal defendant seeking compensation for her injuries.  ICBC, in the place of the unknown motorist, was found liable for the collision.  ICBC argued that the Plaintiff should be found partially at fault for not utilizing the nearby sidewalk.  Mr. Justice Josephson agreed with this submission.  In finding the plaintiff 25% at fault for the collision Mr. Justice Josephson provided the following analysis:

[12]         The plaintiff argues that, as she was walking along the highway, she had either entered the intersection or was approaching so closely that she constituted an immediate hazard to the defendant driver. Consequently, the defendant was obligated to yield the right of way to the plaintiff and, had she done so, could have proceeded after the plaintiff cleared the intersection.

[13]         While ss. 175 and 119, taken together, give through traffic the right of way, s. 175 does not grant to pedestrians travelling along a highway the right to proceed on the roadway itself where a sidewalk or a crosswalk is available. No authorities have found otherwise.

[14]         Furthermore, the plaintiff’s submission that s. 175 grants pedestrians the right of way in travelling along a roadway runs contrary to s. 182(1) of the MVA which provides that, where there is a sidewalk, a pedestrian should avail herself of it.

[15] Therefore, I find that the plaintiff was in breach of her statutory duties under s. 180 and/or s. 182(1) of the MVA and cannot invoke s. 175 in such a way as to override those duties…

[25]         In the case at bar, I find that the plaintiff’s breach of her statutory duties under the MVA did contribute to the accident and, consequently, the injuries she sustained. Because she chose to walk along the roadway behind the diagonal parking stalls, the plaintiff made herself less visible to the defendant than had she chosen to cross the intersection within the unmarked crosswalk according to her duties under the MVA. While the plaintiff believed the defendant driver saw her and was waiting for her to cross the intersection, she should have reasonably perceived the danger the defendant’s car presented given the minimal lighting in the intersection and given that a driver would not expect pedestrians to emerge into the intersection from the other side of the parking stalls when there was a sidewalk and crosswalk available to her.

[26]          I conclude that liability should be apportioned 75% to the driver and 25% to the plaintiff.

This case is also worth reviewing for the Court’s discussion of a Plaintiff’s duties to ascertain the identify of the Driver in Hit and Run Claims.  In order to successfully sue ICBC under s. 24 of the Insurance Vehicle Act a Plaintiff needs to make “all reasonable efforts…to ascertain the identity of the unknown driver“.  Here ICBC argued that the Plaintiff, despite being hit unexpectedly and having a compound wrist fracture, unreasonably failed to obtain identifying information with respect to the offending vehicle.  The Court disagreed with this submission finding that the Plaintiff was in shock and that her failure to identify the motorist was not unreasonable, specifically the court found as follows:

[36] In determining whether a claimant has made all reasonable efforts, the court must have regard to the subjective condition of the claimant at the time of the accident: see Leggett v. Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (1992), 96 D.L.R. (4th) 123, 72 B.C.L.R. (2d) 201 (C.A.) [Leggett cited to B.C.L.R.] at para. 12. Therefore, where a claimant fails to obtain the identity of the driver or owner at the time of the accident because she was in a state of shock, the claimant will not be held to have acted unreasonably. In order to find that a claimant was in a state of shock, medical evidence is not required; a finding that the claimant was “taken by surprise and confused” is sufficient: see Hocaluk v. Insurance Corp. of British Columbia, 2007 BCSC 170, 69 B.C.L.R. (4th) 360 at para. 56.

[37] Under subsection (b), the phrase “not ascertainable” should not be strictly interpreted to mean “could not possibly have been ascertained” but, rather, whether the identity of the person “could not have been ascertained had the claimant made all reasonable efforts, having regard to the claimant’s position”: see Leggett at para. 11.

[38] I am satisfied that the plaintiff was in a significantly altered emotional state following the collision that rendered her incapable of rationally assessing her duties and obligations. With the meaning of Leggett, she was not in a condition that it would have been reasonable for her to discover and record the appropriate information.

[39] Once recovered, she employed all reasonable efforts to ascertain the identity of the owner and driver. While not all possible efforts were employed, those that were fall well within the classification of “reasonable”.

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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Contact

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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