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When Can British Columbians Still Sue After A Vehicle Collision?

As readers of this site know the BC government stripped victims’ rights to sue careless and even reckless drivers for almost all crashes after May 1, 2021.

The law taking these rights away is short and to the point.  Section 115 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act reads as follows:

Despite any other law or enactment but subject to this Part,

(a)a person has no right of action and must not commence or maintain proceedings respecting bodily injury caused by a vehicle arising out of an accident, and

(b)no action or proceeding may be commenced or maintained respecting bodily injury caused by a vehicle arising out of an accident.

The law carves out some exceptions and these are worth being familiar with if you are the victim of a collision.

One exception previously discussed is if the at fault driver is convicted of certain criminal driving offences.  In addition to this very narrow exception certain claims can be brought against non-drivers such as vehicle manufactures, mechanics and even drinking establishments who over serve their patrons who go on to cause a crash.  The common thread is the government is ok with you having certain rights so long as ICBC or the drivers themselves are mostly not on the hook for the harm caused.  This cynicism aside, it is worth being familiar with the below list of exceptions set out in section 116 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act when canvassing legal options following a crash in BC.

116   (1)In this section:

“garage service operator” has the prescribed meaning;

“out-of-province owner” means a person who has ownership of a vehicle in a jurisdiction outside British Columbia in accordance with the law of that jurisdiction;

“voluntary occupant” means a person who is a voluntary operator of, or a voluntary passenger in or on, a vehicle that the person knew or ought to have known was being operated without the consent of the owner, the out-of-province owner or, in the case of a leased motor vehicle, the lessee.

(2)Subject to the regulations and subsection (3), section 115 does not apply to an action or proceeding for non-pecuniary damages and punitive, exemplary or other similar non-compensatory damages against any of the following:

(a)a vehicle manufacturer, respecting its business activities and role as a manufacturer;

(b)a person who is in the business of selling vehicles, respecting the person’s business activities and role as a seller;

(c)a maker or supplier of vehicle parts, respecting its business activities and role as a maker or supplier;

(d)a garage service operator, respecting its business activities and role as a garage service operator;

(e)a licensee within the meaning of the Liquor Control and Licensing Act whose licence authorizes a patron to consume liquor in the service area under the licence, respecting the licensee’s role as a licensee in the sale or service of liquor to a patron;

(f)a person whose use or operation of a vehicle

(i)caused bodily injury, and

(ii)results in the person’s conviction of a prescribed Criminal Code offence;

(g)a person in a prescribed class of persons.

(3)Despite the Negligence Act, in an action referred to in subsection (2) of this section, if 2 or more persons are responsible for bodily injury, they are liable to the person who sustained the bodily injury for any damages awarded for that bodily injury in the degree to which they are respectively responsible, and are not liable to make contribution to and indemnify each other respecting that liability or any payment made in relation to it.

(4)Despite any other law or enactment, in an action referred to in subsection (2) (f), a person who would, but for this subsection, be vicariously liable for the use or operation referred to in subsection (2) (f) is absolved from that vicarious liability.

(5)Despite subsection (2), section 115 applies to an action or proceeding described in subsection (2) of this section commenced or maintained by a voluntary occupant.

(6)Section 83 does not apply to an action referred to in subsection (2) of this section.