Handling an at-fault car accident in BC

 

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Please note that I am not a lawyer, nor do I work for ICBC. This post is based on my own experience only. 

British-Columbia is one of 3 provinces in Canada that has an at-fault system when it comes to car accidents. In legalese, it is called tort.

It means the non-faulty party has the right to sue the at-fault driver for various damages related to the car accident, such as loss of wages, medical expenses, pain and suffering etc…

This is what happened to me when I was involved in a collision 4 years ago, for which I was found 100% responsible. Both the other driver and their passengers claimed injuries and sued me 2 years later in the BC Supreme Court.

IF YOU ARE SERVED, BRING THE DOCUMENTS TO ICBC

in BC, people have 2 years to sue. I was served a Notice of Civil Claim 6 weeks before the limitations were to expire. If it happens to you, do not panic. Bring the documents to any claim centre. ICBC will take it from there.

This is why you pay them for basic third-party liability insurance. the crown corporation will cover the legal costs and any damage assessed up to $ 200 000. If you pay for extended third-party liability insurance, your coverage will be greater, up to $ 5 millions if you wish.

do not contact the other driver 

No matter how upset or surprised you may be, there is no need to contact the other party.

ICBC will handle everything on your behalf. You will not be consulted on how to handle the lawsuit. Your appointed lawyer will also not take any direction from you in the matter.

This is why you pay for third-party liability insurance. Precisely so that you don’t have to do much….which brings me to the next point.

DUTY TO COOPERATE

The only thing you have to do is cooperate. Depending on the accident and the lawsuit, you may be required to meet with your appointed lawyer, ICBC or to attend the trial. Also, return any phone calls and reply to any e-mails sent to you.

Not cooperating could result in a breach of coverage, i.e. ICBC will no longer cover you and you will be on the hook for the entire cost of the claim.

For my case, I attended 2 meetings with my lawyer, an examination for discovery and replied to a bunch of e-mails from both my lawyer and ICBC. I never saw the other party again.

FINAL WORD

All lawsuits will settle, whether it is before or at trial. My appointed lawyer indicated around 95% of claims settle out of court. I was no exception. I did not have to pay for anything beside the deductible.

Being sued as a result of a car accident will not have a significant impact on your life, in most cases. I am not talking about injuries here, but about the lawsuit in itself.

The only time it could be problematic is if ICBC breaches your coverage for one reason or another, or if the damages exceed your third-party liability limits.

 

 

Auto insurance basics in BC

In Canada, auto insurance is mandatory. Each province and territory has its own requirements. Since I live in British-Columbia, I will provide information about how it works in this province.

In British-Columbia, there are no private auto insurance providers. Auto insurance is administered by ICBC, a crown corporation run by the Provincial Government. It usually is quite a shock when newcomers to BC find out there is no such thing as “shopping for auto insurance” and “compare quotes”.

Insurance is bought and renewed through an ICBC Autoplan broker. All dealerships have a broker so you don’t leave with your new car uninsured. This is not necessarily the case in other provinces.

ICBC mandates basic coverage. It includes:

  • Third-party liability up to $ 200 000: if you are found at fault in a crash, both driver and passengers of the other vehicle can sue you for their medical treatment costs, as well as lost wages and an array of other items.
  • Autoplan accident benefits: If you are injured in an accident, ICBC will pay for some of your medical expenses and lost wages, even if you are at fault.
  • Underinsured motorist protection, up to $1 million: if a driver involved in a crash is not insured or underinsured.
  • Hit & run up to $ 200 000: this coverage is available to all residents of BC, even if you don’t have a vehicle
  • Inverse liability protection: certain parts of Canada do not allow you to sue another driver in case of a crash. ICBC will cover your costs if you are involved in an accident outside of the province.

And that’s it!

Did you notice some items are missing such as collision? You are right, this is not included in the basic ICBC coverage. Got a crack on your windshield? Not included either!

Most British-Colombians elect to purchase the following extra coverage:

  • Collision: repairs to your car in case of accident, even when at-fault. This also comes with a deductible. In BC, you only pay for the deductible if you are at-fault.
  • Comprehensive: this covers you in case of a crack in your windshield or if you hit an animal or hail damages. There is also a deductible for this.
  • Extended third-party liability: in case of a lawsuit, 200K may not be enough, depending on the nature of the injuries, the type of income and the number of people suing you. Lawsuits are pretty much the norm. You can purchase coverage for up to $ 5 millions.

You can find all the optional coverage products here.

In terms of costs, it also expensive. It is very common to pay $ 120.00/month with a very good driving record and reasonable coverage. A lot of items impact your premiums such as the usage of the vehicle and the type of vehicle. The fact that ICBC has monopoly doesn’t help either.

That being said, the driving factor – no pun intended!- behind the high cost of auto insurance is injury claims and lawsuits. These are extremely expensive.