Hit and run accidents are a big concern for most drivers, police, and law-makers. We have all heard the news stories about the tragic accidents, made more tragic when the driver doesn’t stop, as is required by law. A lot of hit and run accidents are less newsworthy, although often no less upsetting for those involved.
We can all picture it. You are in traffic, perhaps waiting for the light to change or thinking about the day ahead. Suddenly, your car is struck; the other car speeds off.
This is a shock for most people, as we all expect other motorists to be as considerate (and law-abiding) as we all strive to be. Luckily, there are statutory provisions to help in cases of hit and run drivers, who are known as “unidentified motorists”.
Section 24 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act is entitled “Remedy for Damage in Hit and Run Accident”. It sets out the framework where the driver, or owner, of the other vehicle cannot be identified following an accident. There are also Regulations which apply.
Importantly, the Act requires written notice to ICBC of the particulars of the accident “as soon as reasonably practicable” and in any event within six months. The idea behind this is to allow for an opportunity to investigate, before the trail goes cold. In one case, a person who waited for two months to report the accident was held by the Courts to have failed to meet the notice requirement. Further, the Act requires that there be reasonable efforts” to identify the other driver. As you can imagine, this has led to a lot of argument as to what is reasonable in the circumstances. Suffice to say, it is important to make every effort to obtain the contact information and license plate number of the other driver at the accident scene.
In some cases, where perhaps the person who was struck was in shock, it may be necessary to return to the scene of the accident and post signs asking for witnesses, or even canvass the neighbourhood to see if anyone saw anything. While there may also be a separate duty to report the accident to the police, a police report may not be enough by itself to qualify as “reasonable efforts”.
In addition to the above, there are also other technical requirements, such as that the accident must have occurred on a “highway”, as that term is defined at law. The term highway includes not only the Trans-Canada, and all public roadways, but can even include private parking lots where the general public is invited or has access. In addition, there are separate considerations where the accident occurs outside of British Columbia.
Certainly, this is an often technical area of the law where the assistance and guidance of counsel can be of immeasurable help. Should you have any questions regarding unidentified motorists, or another personal injury matter, contact the Law Offices of Baker Newby LLP.