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Harper v. Insurance Corporation of British Columbia: ICBC Faults Incorrect Driver for Auto Accident

ICBC is often in the position of deciding who was responsible for causing a multi-car accident. But just because ICBC’s adjusters think they know what happened, that does not mean they have the last word. If you find yourself on the wrong end of an ICBC liability determination, you have the right to take the insurer to court and have a neutral adjudicator decide if you were truly at fault.

Here is a recent example where a driver took ICBC to court and won. This case, Harper v. Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, actually took place before the Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT). This is B.C.’s small claims court. This means the CRT only hears claims worth less than $5,000 in total.

In this particular case, the applicant alleged ICBC improperly faulted him for a December 2016 motor vehicle accident. As a result, he was charged an insurance deductible of $300, and ICBC withheld an additional $542 from his insurance refund. The applicant sought reimbursement for these amounts.

The accident itself occurred at approximately 11:30 a.m. on December 11, 2016. The applicant was driving westbound on Highway 1 in Salmon Run, a town to the west of Kamloops. Highway 1 intersects with 10th Street Southwest in Salmon Run. The applicant proceeded into this intersection, as he made a left turn from Highway 1 onto 10th Street. As the applicant made his turn, however, a second driver traveling on eastbound Highway 1 failed to stop at the red light at the intersection and collided with the applicant’s vehicle.

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ICBC adjusters subsequently reviewed statements from both drivers. There were no other witnesses present, aside from the applicant’s wife, and no police report. Based on the driver’s statements, ICBC concluded it was the applicant, not the second driver, who was at-fault. ICBC credited the second driver’s statement that she “had an amber light, not red, when she entered the intersection.”

Video Footage, Wife’s Testimony Supports Driver’s Claim Against ICBC

Before the CRT, the applicant presented additional evidence in the form of surveillance video of the intersection. The applicant said this video showed “a red light for eastbound traffic” just before the collision, “meaning the east bound vehicle that hit his car failed to stop at the red light.” This directly contradicted ICBC’s findings that the applicant was 100% at fault.

The Tribunal member hearing the case for the CRT, Julie K. Gibson, agreed. The video made it clear that “if the green or amber arrow for left turning traffic from Highway 1 to proceed sought on 10th avenue southwest is illuminated, the traffic signal for eastbound traffic on Highway 1 is red.” In other words, the applicant could only have made a legal left turn if he had a green or amber arrow, as the oncoming traffic from the opposite direction would be stopped at a red light. But Gibson also observed that if the applicant “turned very late on his left arrow, once it was no longer illuminated at all, the light for oncoming traffic could have been green.”

So what does the law have to say about this? Under the B.C. Motor Vehicle Act, Gibson said, when a driver intends to make a left turn, he must normally “yield to traffic approaching from the opposite direction that is in the intersection or so close as to constitute an immediate hazard.” In this scenario, the applicant was the “servient” driver while the second driver was the “dominant” driver.

That said, once the servient driver has “yielded and given a signal,” he is permitted to complete his left turn and the approaching traffic must yield. Here, the applicant said he “started his left turn while the flashing green light was on, and it turned amber while he was making his turn.” This meant he had the right-of-way, not the second driver. The applicant’s wife told the CRT the same thing.

Given the presence of an additional witness supporting the applicant’s position–and none to corroborate the second driver’s account–Gibson said she found the applicant’s explanation for what happened more convincing. While noting the applicant’s wife was hardly a “disinterested party,” under the circumstances she was the “only non-driver witness to the collision.” Additionally, Gibson noted the second driver was “unable to remember whether there were any vehicles in the lanes to her right or left.” In contrast, both the applicant and his wife recalled there was another vehicle stopped beside them. This indicated to Gibson that the applicant “was paying closer attention to what was happening in the intersection” than the second driver.

Finally, the applicant told Gibson that immediately following the accident, the second driver admitted she was driving “over the posted 50 km speed limit” and that “the accident was her fault.” The second driver did not testify before the CRT to contradict this account. ICBC did present an email that summarized what the second driver told the adjuster, but Gibson found this secondhand account incomplete.

Ultimately, Gibson said ICBC “did not fully consider the timing of the signal changes at the intersection in reaching its determination” on liability. It was highly unlikely that the second driver had a green light when she decided to enter the intersection. Therefore, contrary to ICBC’s determination, the second driver was the one who was 100% at-fault for the accident. Gibson therefore ordered ICBC to refund the applicant his $300 deductible for the accident, and an additional $145.68 in interest and court costs.

Contact Preszler Injury Lawyers Today if You Need Help Dealing with an ICBC Claim

Although this was a small claims matter, it demonstrates how easily ICBC can incorrectly assign liability for an accident. If you are involved in a more consequential accident, such errors can prove costly. An experienced Vancouver personal injury lawyer can help. Contact Preszler Injury Lawyers today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with a member of our team.



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