When you are involved in a car accident, you know you need to file a claim with your insurance company, which for most B.C. residents is ICBC. If your vehicle was damaged in the accident due to another party’s negligence, an ICBC-approved repair centre will assess the cost of the repairs. By law, ICBC is supposed to compensate the owner for the “fair value” of any accident-related repairs–including the replacement value if the vehicle is declared a total loss. In practice, ICBC adjusters often undervalue claims and fail to provide the full amount of coverage owed to insured drivers. When this happens, the driver may take legal action against ICBC in the courts.
Such actions are not always successful, however. For instance, a B.C. Supreme Court judge sitting in Prince George recently ended a trial against ICBC prematurely after determining the plaintiffs failed to present sufficient evidence in support of their case, which alleged ICBC did not fully compensate them for damage to their logging truck.
The vehicle in question was actually composed of a Freightliner tractor and two attached trailers. The plaintiffs are a husband and wife who used the vehicle to support their logging business. There was some dispute at trial as to the exact condition of the tractor prior to the accident. It was nine years old when the plaintiffs purchased it, but the odometer had “not been working properly for some time,” according to court records, so it was unclear just how many kilometres it had logged. The tractor and the two trailers were all properly insured with ICBC and passed legally required semi-annual inspections.
The accident itself took place in January 2015. The plaintiff husband was driving the truck at the time on a “radio-assisted forest road near Fort St. James.” He pulled over to the side of the road to allow another logging truck to pass. But the other truck still managed to collide with the plaintiffs’ truck on the driver’s side.
There was subsequently a dispute as to liability for the accident. The other driver sued the husband in a separate proceeding, and the court determined the husband was 100% liable. But for purposes of insurance, ICBC decided the husband was only 50% responsible.
The husband took pictures of the truck immediately following the accident. They indicated “damage to the driver’s mirror on the cab,” a bent chain hanger in front of the back tires of the tractor, a large rip in one of the back tires, and a destroyed rim, among other problems. The husband managed to secure a quick repair of the tire in Fort St. James. He then contacted ICBC, which told him to find an authorized repair shop.
The husband did as instructed. He took the tractor by itself to a repair shop. The two trailers arrived a few days later. At that point, the husband said he noticed “further damage had occurred to the trailers post-accident, probably from a hit and run.” The plaintiffs then filed an additional claim with ICBC based on this alleged post-accident damage.
The repair shop eventually completed about $23,000 worth of repairs to the entire logging truck. But as he was driving the truck home from the repair shop, the husband said “he noticed it seemed hard to steer.” He then brought the truck back to the repair shop, which completed additional work. But even after this second repair job, the plaintiffs believed “there were further things to be done before the tractor and trailers would be roadworthy.” The husband then decided to try and effect the repairs himself “in his spare time,” with the hope of having the truck ready for active work the following winter.
Unfortunately, the husband was not able to meet this timetable. In fact, he broke his leg during the course of making repairs. About a year later, he contacted the original repair shop and explained his ongoing problems. During this period, the plaintiffs acknowledged they had no contact with ICBC. In early 2017–more than two years after the accident–the repair shop agreed to make a third set of repairs. The plaintiffs said this still did not help. They determined the truck would never be “roadworthy” again and simply left it at the repair shop.
It was at this point that the plaintiffs contacted ICBC to express their “dissatisfaction with the repair process.” The plaintiffs later sued both the repair shop and ICBC. With respect to ICBC, the plaintiffs argued the insurer “approved a negligent [repair] estimate, without any indication that it exercised its own diligence in assessing the estimate for accuracy.” In effect, by only covering the repairs identified by the repair shop–which were insufficient to get the vehicle back in working order–ICBC failed to provide the plaintiffs of the full benefit of their policy.
After the plaintiffs presented their case to Justice Joyce DeWitt-Van Oosten of B.C. Supreme Court, the defendants filed a motion “to have the action dismissed on the ground that there is no evidence to support the plaintiff’s case.” The judge granted the motion. She noted that while the liability of the repair shop and ICBC “seems obvious” to the plaintiffs, they failed to prove any negligence on the part of either defendant.
For instance, the plaintiffs’ claim against ICBC is based on its alleged negligence in approving the repair shop’s inadequate estimate. But the plaintiffs offered “no evidence of the standard of care reasonably expected of someone who conducts estimates of this nature, or whether [the repair shop] failed to meet this standard.” Nor did the plaintiffs prove the truck itself was “not roadworthy or incapable of being made roadworthy.” The only evidence there was a problem was the husband’s own subjective beliefs. Cases like this require expert testimony–and the plaintiffs offered none.
The plaintiffs in this case did two things right: They contacted ICBC immediately following their accident and took pictures to document the damage prior to seeking repairs. That said, their decision to try and repair the truck themselves–not mention suing ICBC without gathering proper expert testimony–proved fatal to their lawsuit. This is why it is critical to contact a qualified Prince George ICBC lawyer as soon as possible following an accident. Call the Preszler Law Firm to speak with a lawyer today.