One of the more common mistakes people make following a car accident is failing to contact the local police. B.C. law actually requires anyone involved in an accident to notify the police within 24 hours (or 48 hours in rural areas) if the estimated damages exceed $1,000. Even if you are unsure of the amount or extent of any property damage, it is still a good idea to report an accident to the police as soon as possible. Even if the police determine the accident is too minor to warrant sending an officer to attend the scene, at a minimum you will have a record of making the notification, which can help if you need to file an insurance claim with ICBC.
If an officer does attend the scene, the official report of the accident can prove to be invaluable evidence if you need to file a personal injury claim against the other driver. B.C. courts often look to the official police report as an impartial source of evidence in an accident case, especially when the plaintiff and the defendant effectively blame one another for what happened.
Consider this recent decision by the B.C. Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT), Evans v. VF Freight Ltd. This small claims case involves a November 2017 motor vehicle accident. As is common in these types of cases, the applicant represented himself before the Tribunal. An ICBC representative appeared on behalf of the corporate respondent.
According to the applicant, a tractor-trailer driven by an employee of the respondent “pulled out in front of [the applicant] from the north exit of a Canadian Tire parking lot.” The tractor-trailer effectively blocked both lanes of traffic, which forced the respondent to drive onto the median, which caused property damage to his vehicle.
The driver disputed the applicant’s account of what happened. In a written statement to the Tribunal, the driver said he was “exiting the parking lot in the tractor-trailer,” while simultaneously the applicant left the same parking lot at another exit about 100 meters to the south. By the driver’s account, the applicant therefore “had plenty of time” to see the tractor-trailer turn, and in fact the applicant “could have simply driven past the truck” once the driver completed his turn.
The driver claimed that it was the applicant whose negligence caused the damage to his own car. Rather than follow the course prescribed above, the driver said the applicant “accelerated extremely hard toward” toward the driver’s position. The applicant then “honked his horn” before cutting in front of the tractor-trailer, which forced the driver to make a stop.
The driver said the applicant then got out of his vehicle and approached the tractor-trailer. During a subsequent exchange, the driver said the applicant “shouted abuse” at him. After the applicant got back into his car, the driver said this cycle repeated two more times: The applicant kept pulling in front of the tractor-trailer and braked hard, which forced the driver to fully apply his own brakes. Eventually, the two vehicles reached a traffic light. Once the signal turned green, the driver said the applicant “made a great show of accelerating extremely hard and was spinning his wheels.” It was in the process of this acceleration that the applicant’s car spun out of control and hit the curb.
Tribunal Member Kate Campbell ultimately dismissed the applicant’s claim, finding the driver’s account of what took place more credible. First, Campbell noted the applicant “did not provide any report or account of the accident at the time the events occurred, or until he submitted his dispute application to the tribunal.” Even when the applicant did file a claim, he neglected to mention what happened at the intersection, but “later admitted it” in additional submissions to the tribunal.
In fact, the applicant effectively changed his story, admitting there was a “second accident” that resulted in no damage while maintaining there was an initial accident that caused damage. Campbell found this story inconsistent, stating it was “difficult to understand how a driver in a passenger vehicle could simultaneously take action to stop a tractor-trailer from leaving and avoid a collision with that same tractor-trailer.”
What helped sway the case in favour of the respondent was the report filed by the local police officer who attended the accident scene. Campbell noted that while the officer did not personally witness the accident, “he created a written report immediately after they occurred, based on interviews with the applicant and three witnesses.” The officer said the applicant told him that he “was trying to avoid a transport he felt was cutting him off of the road” and that he “sped up to get in front of the transport, but the wet roads caused his vehicle to slip and spin and hit the curb.” The applicant did not say, as he later claimed before the tribunal, that he was forced off the road into the median by the tractor-trailer driver.
The witness statements taken by the officer further confirmed the truck driver’s account of events. According to the police report, the witnesses “all said the applicant gunned his vehicle off the red light and his speed caused him to lose control.” The applicant presented no compelling evidence to the contrary. In fact, the only additional evidence he offered was surveillance video taken from the parking lot, but Campbell said that did not show the that the tractor-trailer driver “forced the applicant off the road and into the median.”
In addition to contacting the police and getting an official accident report, it is also a good idea to take photographs of the scene and any damage to your vehicle before it is towed. The more evidence that you can show a judge or tribunal, the stronger your case for damages will be. If you need advice or assistance following an accident from an experienced Vancouver personal injury lawyer, contact the Preszler Law Firm today to schedule a free consultation.