A decision was released by the B.C. Supreme Court recently which raises some interesting questions with respect to a driver's obligation to take reasonable steps to learn the identity of the driver and/or owner of the vehicle that struck them (which is required by section 24(5) of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act).
In Li v. ICBC, a female driver was rear-ended on McBride Avenue in New Westminster. The driver got out of her car and quickly took a look at the damage, which was rather minimal. The driver who struck her advised that they should pull off the main street onto Sixth Avenue where they could exchange information. The woman who was struck did this, but the other driver took off. The woman had not yet recorded the driver's license plate or license information.
Following the accident, the woman spoke with a fire captain from the station across the street where the accident occurred. The fire captain advised the woman that one of his crew had seen the accident and that she had been hit by a black Alpha Romeo. The woman then reported the accident to ICBC and passed on the name of the fire captain.
During a ten month period following the accident, the driver dealt with four adjusters at ICBC. At no time was she advised that she had an obligation under the Act to take steps to identify the driver of the Alpha Romeo that had struck her. There was no issue at trial that the driver had not taken a number of potential steps to identify the driver of the Alpha Romeo, including:
1. Contacting the fire crew member who witnessed the accident;
2. Canvassing homes in the area adjacent to the accident scene;
3. Posting signs at the corner of the intersection where the accident occurred;
4. Posting signs or canvassing at businesses in the vicinity of the accident site; and
5. Perhaps most importantly, reporting the accident to the police, who could have investigated the matter as a Criminal Code hit and run offence.
Ultimately, the trial judge concluded that the driver's failure to take reasonable steps to identify the owner or driver of the Alpha Romeo were insufficient to meet the statutory conditions necessary to obtain a judgment. The Judge's conclusions in this regard were fatal to the plaintiff's claim.
Interestingly, the trial judge made a number of comments concerning ICBC's obligation to advise its insured with respect to what the judge described to be the "more obscure aspects" of the Act in terms of a driver's obligation to take steps to locate the individual who struck them. The trial judge urged legislative reform with respect to this section of the Act, stating:
Motor vehicle accident victims need and expect piece of mind when dealing with ICBC in regard to hit-and-run claims. There is no current obligation to compel the corporation to inform claimants of the existence of section 24(5) so as to alert those people of the risks and pitfalls that arise if they fail to take necessary steps to identify the other motorist.
Although the Judge's views in this regard did not assist Ms. Li, perhaps these reasons for judgment will effect some future changes with respect to ICBC's obligations in similar situations.
If you have recently been involved in an accident and have questions with respect to the steps that you should take to identify the other motorist, please contact one of our lawyers.