According to ICBC statistics an average of 34,000 hit-and-run incidents occur in the lower mainland each year, 2,100 of which result in injury. In British Columbia hit-and-run victims are eligible to receive up to $200,000 in compensation from ICBC for damages and injuries. Section 24 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act provides a statutory right of action, enabling plaintiffs involved in hit-and-run accidents to sue ICBC where the identity of a negligent driver is unknown. In order to be eligible to sue ICBC and receive compensation, hit-and-run victims must:
- Provide notice to the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (“ICBC”) of the hit-and-run accident as soon as reasonably practical; and
- Make all reasonable efforts to locate the identity of the unidentified motorist.
1. Providing notice to ICBC of a hit-and-run accident as soon as reasonably practical
Section 24 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act sets out the remedy for damages sustained in hit-and-run accidents. The section provides that proceedings cannot be brought against ICBC for bodily injury arising out of a hit-and-run accident unless the person bringing the claim provides written notice to ICBC as soon as reasonably practicable, and in any event within six months of the event that caused the injury. Failure to meet the 6 month deadline can result in the claimant losing the right to claim against ICBC for the negligence of the unidentified driver.
Providing notice to ICBC within 6 months does not necessarily meet the requirement of providing notice “as soon as reasonably practical”. A rider of a bicycle who was struck by an unidentified motorist who waited two months before contacting police and ICBC was found not to have provided notice as soon as practically possible.
The court has found that ICBC is put on notice when a person having a claim arising out of a motor vehicle accident reveals all material circumstances known to him or her, and in particular the involvement of an unidentified motorist. If the notice period outlined in s. 24(2) of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act is met, a claimant must also satisfy the requirements set out in s. 24(5) in order to bring a successful claim.
2. Making all reasonable efforts to locate the identity of the unidentified motorist
Section 24(5) of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act restricts plaintiffs in their actions against ICBC as the nominal defendant to those who satisfy the court that they have made all reasonable efforts to identify the unknown hit-and-run driver and that the identity of the driver is not ascertainable.
Since such a right of action was unknown at common law, strict compliance with the statutory conditions precedent is required. It is not sufficient merely to state that all reasonable efforts have been made; the judge should be provided with evidence of efforts which have been made on which he or she may base his or her decision as to whether or not such efforts are “all reasonable efforts.”
The duty to be met by a plaintiff on the matter of reasonable efforts is not easily displaced, even when an unidentified vehicle has fled the scene. A plaintiff’s failure to discharge this onus and establish that reasonable steps have been taken is fatal to a plaintiff’s claim.
If you are the victim of a hit-and-run accident we encourage you to retain competent counsel as soon as possible.