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In a recent Supreme Court of British Columbia case the court confirmed that if you are injured by a hit and run driver, you do not need to do everything conceivable in order to identify the driver of the hit and run vehicle; you only need to take reasonable efforts to identify the driver (Ghuman v. ICBC 2019 BCSC 3). You may be asking yourself, where does this arise and why might this be important to me?
Picture this, while you are stopped at a stop sign, another vehicle slams into your vehicle and then hastily speeds away. In the seconds and minutes that follow you are likely in shock and potentially in pain. Once you determine, however, that you are not catastrophically injured, you may out of your vehicle and look around only to find that there is no one around, including the vehicle that collided with you. Who do you hold accountable for this hit-and-run?
That is the scenario Mr. Ghuman found himself in when his vehicle was struck by another vehicle in Surrey in 2014.
Section 24 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act says that ICBC will be responsible for compensation, even if you don’t know the identity of the driver that hit you, as long as you can establish that you have made all reasonable efforts to identify the owner and driver of the vehicle. In this case, Mr. Ghuman looked around at the scene of the accident but was unable to identify any witnesses, he reported the incident to the police the following day, he put up flyers in the area asking for anyone with information to come forward, and he retained a lawyer who helped him with a second round of flyers and posted an advertisement in the newspaper.
ICBC took the position that because Mr. Ghuman waited until the following day to phone the police, because he did not follow up with them after that initial report and because he did not interview surrounding businesses in the days following the accident that he had not done enough and that they should be allowed to deny him compensation he was otherwise entitled to.
The Supreme Court of British Columbia disagreed and ultimately found that Mr. Ghuman should be able seek compensation from ICBC. The Court stated the following:
“In the end, Mr. Ghuman is not to be held to the standard of perfection. Even if the timing of his telephone call to police and his lack of follow up with police could be viewed as something less than reasonable in and of themselves, I agree with the plaintiff that what is reasonable in all of the circumstances of one case does not rise and fall on a single effort. What sets this case apart from other cases provided is that Mr. Ghuman was faced with a driver who immediately fled the scene of a low impact type of accident in an area with transient traffic, surrounded by parking lots. Despite these obvious limitations in obtaining information regarding that vehicle’s identity, Mr. Ghuman nevertheless chose to take several positive steps to investigate. He was proactive from the outset. That he was unsuccessful is of no consequence. All that is required is that he take all reasonable steps to ascertain the identity of the unknown driver and owner of the SUV. I find that he did in the circumstances of the case.”
This is an example of ICBC taking an unreasonable position in order to try to deny an individual compensation and the Court righted this wrong. If you find yourself in a similar situation or simply have questions about whether your legal rights are being ignored, it may be worth your while to speak to a lawyer to ensure you can make an informed decision going forward.