Hit And Run Accidents – Can You Still Seek Injury Compensation?
If you are injured in a hit-and-run accident in British Columbia, it is important to be aware that you may still be entitled to seek compensation for your injuries. The British Columbia Insurance (Vehicle) Act outlines the process by which an injured party can seek to recover injury compensation even though the identity of the responsible driver is unknown. There are, however, some key factors that impact whether you will be entitled to compensation in this situation. Some of the key considerations include:
(1) Whether you could have ascertained the identity of the responsible party through ‘reasonable efforts’
If injured in a hit-and-run accident, entitlement to compensation is limited to those situations where you were unable to ascertain the identity of the responsible party using ‘reasonable efforts’.
If you are injured in an accident and had the opportunity at the accident scene to identify the responsible party, but failed to do so, you will normally be precluded from obtaining injury compensation under the hit-and-run legislation. Similarly, if you are injured and you obtain the information regarding the identity of the responsible party and then subsequently lose the information, you will likely be barred from obtaining compensation under the hit-and-run legislation.
The lesson to take from this is the importance of taking steps at the accident scene to determine the identity of the other driver. Otherwise, you run the risk of being unable to rely upon the hit-and-run provisions of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act.
(2) What if you did not obtain the identity of the responsible party at the accident scene?
As outlined above, if you simply failed to obtain the necessary contact information, it is unlikely you will be able to seek compensation from ICBC for your injuries. If, however, you were unable to determine the identity of the other driver (eg. the driver sped away from the scene without stopping), you are then are obligated to use ‘reasonable efforts’ to try and determine the identity of the responsible party. ICBC is not liable to pay compensation until you fulfil this obligation. Using reasonable efforts to locate the other driver may involve reporting the accident to the police, returning to the accident scene to post signs to locate witnesses, advertising to seek the driver’s identification, canvassing the neighbourhood for witnesses and reporting the accident to ICBC.
The above steps are by no means an exhaustive list of the steps you may be required to take to locate the responsible party. There is also no guarantee that if you take the above steps, you will have fulfilled your obligation of making ‘reasonable efforts’. Any questions or concerns you have about whether you have made ‘reasonable efforts’ to locate the responsible party should be discussed with legal counsel.
(3) Requirement to provide notice of hit-and-run accident to ICBC
You are also required to give notice to ICBC of the hit-and-run accident. Specifically, you are required, as an injured party, to give ICBC written notice as soon as is reasonably practical and in any event, within six months of the date of the accident. A failure to provide notice in a reasonable amount of time may prevent you from recovering compensation for your injuries from ICBC.
If you are injured in a hit-and-run accident, it would be wise, in light of the legal intricacies involved in complying with the Insurance (Vehicle) Act, to consult with legal counsel as soon as possible after the accident to ensure the appropriate steps are taken right from the outset. This will help ensure that you do not prejudice your opportunity to recover injury compensation.