Hit and Run Accidents
For a person who has just been injured in a motor vehicle accident and is focused on his or her recovery, there is nothing more frustrating than having to deal with the additional burden of a hit-and-run claim—not to mention the legal requirements that must be strictly adhered to if you wish to pursue a valid claim.
One question we are often asked is, if the other driver took off and I don’t know who he/she is, how can I sue him/her?
This is actually a great question. In hit-and-run cases where the driver’s identity cannot be ascertained, ICBC steps in place of the unknown driver. Under Section 24 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act, ICBC is legally required to compensate you for the damage to your vehicle and/or any injuries you may have sustained, even if the person who hit you is unknown. However, there are some increased obligations on your part as the victim of a hit and run.
What are the increased obligations required of me following a hit-and-run?
Section 24(5) of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act must be followed in order to receive a judgment against ICBC in Court. That is,
- All “reasonable efforts” must be made by the parties to ascertain the identity of the unknown owner of the vehicle and/or driver; and
- The identity of the unknown owner of the vehicle and/or driver must not be “ascertainable”
The “reasonable efforts” required of you are defined by the Court’s interpretation of s. 24 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act (more below).
What is meant by the owner/driver not being “ascertainable”?
Essentially, this means that the driver must have fled the scene before you had a chance to obtain his/her information. If the driver stopped at the scene and you let him/her go without collecting his/her information, this could disqualify you from advancing a hit-and-run claim.
Accordingly, your first step is to always record the following information from all parties involved in a motor vehicle collision at the scene:
- Vehicle make and model,
- License plate number,
- Name on driver’s license,
- Driver’s license number, and
- Registered owner of the vehicle according to registration documents.
In the event that an offending motorist takes off before you are able to collect his/her information, you should attempt to record the vehicle’s license plate number if possible. Never risk your own personal safety or the safety of others around you when attempting to collect information from a vehicle that is fleeing the scene.
If the driver flees and you are not able to locate him/her again, you must take the following steps in a timely fashion:
- Report the incident to police right away and cooperate with their investigation;
- Notify ICBC right away (within minutes or hours if you are able to, but in any event within 6 months);
- Canvass local residents, shops, and businesses in the area to determine if any witnesses exist;
- Scan the area for video cameras that may have captured footage of the crash and take steps to obtain the footage;
- Set up signs at the accident scene asking for witnesses to come forward; and
- Run an advertisement in the local newspaper seeking witnesses;
The above steps may sound excessive, but these steps are what the Court considers “reasonable efforts” in accordance with s. 24 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act. It is absolutely critical for the success of your claim that you adhere to as many of the steps mentioned above (and perhaps other steps that may lead you to discover the identity of the owner of the vehicle/driver). Otherwise, you run the risk of losing your ability to successfully advance an injury claim. At Giusti Nairne, we take all of the above-mentioned steps for you once we are retained.
If you are able to demonstrate that the owner of the vehicle and the driver’s identity were not ascertainable and that you performed all reasonable efforts, your claim continues much like any other claim would. However, your claim is limited to $200,000 minus vehicle damage repair costs, legal costs, and disbursements. In the event that your claim is worth more than this amount, you are able to access underinsured motorist protection (U.M.P.) for an additional $1,000,000 to $2,000,000, depending on your insurance coverage.
Hit-and-run cases are typically more challenging than the average case. It is always recommended that you obtain a lawyer to help you navigate through this difficult process and ensure that all necessary steps are taken to protect your claim.