Unfortunately, hit and run accidents are a frequent occurrence. Sometimes the other driver will flee right away, or they may remain at the scene for a short while, but not provide their information. Under Section 24 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act, ICBC has to compensate you for death, or injury, or for damage to a vehicle, even if the motorist at fault isn’t known. All you have to do is make “reasonable efforts” to ascertain the identity of the driver. While the interpretation of “reasonable efforts” varies, at a minimum you should report the accident to the police so they can begin an investigation.
The following are examples of what may constitute reasonable efforts:
- Take a picture of the other vehicle to try to get the license plate information;
- Talk to any witnesses in the area;
- Notify the police at the accident scene or within hours of the accident;
- Notify ICBC within hours of the accident, if possible;
- Place a sign at the accident scene looking for witnesses and the other driver;
- Place an ad in the local newspaper looking for witnesses and the other driver;
- Follow-up with the police regarding the investigation; and
- If the accident occurred in a busy or commercial area, see if anyone has surveillance video that may have captured what happened.
In other words, do everything you can so that ICBC can’t argue that you didn’t take all the steps possible. We recommend you talk to a lawyer right away to find out what additional steps you can take to strengthen your claim.
Section 24 also provides clear reporting requirements. When you have been involved in a hit and run, you must notify ICBC of the accident in writing as soon as possible and no later than six months after the accident. The courts have interpreted this provision as requiring a motorist to give ICBC notice within days of the accident unless for some reason your injuries preclude you from doing so.
If you pass the initial threshold test, you then pursue ICBC for payment of damages. If you need to launch a lawsuit, you will sue ICBC as a nominal defendant. If the identity of the vehicle and driver becomes known later, you will amend the lawsuit so that you sue the owner and operator of that vehicle.
Like other ICBC cases, all defenses open to ICBC are also available in a hit-and-run claim, including arguing liability, even though the other motorist involved in the accident is not available to testify at trial. The limits on the claim are $200,000 legal costs and disbursements at which time underinsured motorist protection (“U.M.P.”) would also be available.
In short, if you’re the victim of a Hit and Run, contact ICBC and the police as soon as possible. Also, do everything you can to try and identify the other vehicle and driver involved. Otherwise, you won’t have a claim against ICBC. If you are in doubt about your obligations, or have questions about the process, contact a lawyer as soon as possible.