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Schmidt v. ICBC: Photographs Favour Insurer’s Version of Vancouver Auto Accident


It probably comes as no surprise that most car accidents occur at intersections. In fact, according to ICBC, intersection collisions represent about 60% of all motor vehicle accidents in B.C. For that reason, ICBC and the provincial government spearheaded the installation of over 140 “red light cameras” throughout B.C. in order to promote safer driving at high-traffic intersections.

The Accident and Subsequent ICBC Claims

Photographic evidence from these types of cameras can prove essential to proving or disproving an individual driver’s liability for a particular accident. A recent decision from the B.C. Civil Resolution Tribunal, Schmidt v. Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, offers a helpful illustration.

The applicant in this case, a man named Schmidt, was driving a rental car on August 26, 2016. More precisely, he was driving south on Yew Street in Vancouver, approaching an intersection with West 4th Avenue. At this intersection, Yew Street is controlled by stop signs, while West 4th Avenue is controlled by traffic signals.

There was no dispute that Schmidt entered the intersection and collided with a second vehicle, driven by a person who was only identified in court records as “RR.” What was in dispute is who caused the accident. According to Schmidt, he stopped at the Yew Street stop sign and proceeded into the intersection, while RR “ran a red light.”

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ICBC disagreed. It chose to believe RR’s account of the accident. RR told the ICBC adjuster that he had an amber light as he approached the intersection, so he had the right-of-way. It was Schmidt who failed to yield.

Schmidt said that at the time of the accident, ICBC “told him that no claim had been filed,” so he did not think anything more of the collision. Yet later, he said ICBC “placed” a claim against Schmidt for $2,275.94 in damages to RR’s vehicle. At that point, Schmidt pursued his own claim for $1,000 in damages to his vehicle, reiterating his view that RR ran a red light and thereby caused the accident.

Since the amounts in dispute here were less than $5,000, this matter was taken up by the B.C. Civil Resolution Tribunal. Schmidt represented himself before the Tribunal, while ICBC was represented by one of its employees. The rental company that owned Schmidt’s vehicle did not participate in the case.

The Photographic Evidence and Schmidt’s Liability

Among the evidence considered by the Tribunal were several still photographs taken in the seconds just before the collision on August 26, 2016. Remember, the traffic signal was on West 4th Avenue, which was RR’s location, while Schmidt was on Yew Street, which was only controlled by a stop sign. There was also a pedestrian signal controlling West 4th.

Here is what the photographic evidence revealed, according to Tribunal Member Julie K. Gibson, the hearing officer in this case:

  • At 9:40 a.m. and 1 second, there were no cars in the intersection of Yew Street and West 4th Avenue. Schmidt maintained the West 4th traffic signal was red at this point. Gibson, however, said she was “unable” to make a determination about the status of the signal. She did find that the West 4th pedestrian signal was not active.
  • At 9:40 a.m. and 2 seconds, there are still no cars in the intersection. Gibson said it was still not clear if the West 4th traffic signal was red, but the pedestrian signal was still not active.
  • The collision occurred at 9:40 a.m. and 3 seconds. The still photograph at this time point showed a “red car” in front of Schmidt’s vehicle, according to Gibson. The West 4th pedestrian signal is still not active.
  • At 9:40 a.m. and 4 seconds, the West 4th pedestrian signal is now active.

From this evidence, Gibson concluded that Schmidt “moved into the intersection at some time before the pedestrian signal to cross West 4th was illuminated.” This is critical because while the status of the traffic light was not visible in the photographs, the pedestrian signal offered an important clue as to when the light switched from amber to red.

As Gibson explained, even though “the vehicle light would have turned red before the pedestrian signal did,” at the moment of collision–the 3-second mark–the pedestrian signal was still not on. This meant the West 4th traffic signal “was either amber or had only just changed red.”

More to the point, under the B.C. Motor Vehicle Act, Gibson noted that when a vehicle “is stopped at a stop sign, the driver must ensure it is safe to leave before moving from the stopped position.” So, regardless of whether RR entered the intersection under an amber or “early red” light, he still had the right-of-way. Schmidt had a legal duty to remain stopped at the sign.

Accordingly, Gibson upheld ICBC’s conclusion that Schmidt was 100% responsible for the accident. This meant Schmidt recovered nothing for the damage to his own car and the $2,275.94 claim for the damage to RR’s vehicle would count against Schmidt’s insurance.

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Tribunal Member Gibson also saw no merit in Schmidt’s allegation that ICBC previously “told him that no claim had been filed” by RR and that he only later discovered the $2,275.94 claim. For one thing, Gibson said Schmidt provided “no written evidence” to support this allegation. For another, Schmidt admitted that ICBC told him he was “100% liable” for the accident, which was more than enough to put him on notice as to a potential claim.

Cases like this illustrate why it is always a good idea to contact a qualified Vancouver ICBC claims lawyer before dealing with an insurance adjuster. Even if you only believe there has been “minor” damage to the vehicles involved, a lawyer can still advise you of your rights and assist you in gathering and reviewing any critical evidence related to the accident. If you need help, contact the Preszler Injury Lawyers today to schedule a free consultation.

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