Determining Fault After a Car Accident
In some cases, it’s obvious who is entirely or mostly at fault in a Vancouver car accident. This makes any subsequent insurance claims fairly straightforward. However, many car crashes have multiple potential causes and happen in the blink of an eye. Determining fault in these cases is not always so simple.
If you or someone have been involved in a British Columbia car accident, you may be wondering who is to blame and how this might affect the compensation you could receive for your losses.
The good news is that even if you and other motorists involved in the crash see things quite differently, it’s really up to the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) – and ultimately the courts – to determine fault. If you feel uncertain about who may have been responsible for your Vancouver car crash or would like to learn more about how ICBC will decide who is liable, continue reading or contact a knowledgeable ICBC lawyer to discuss your claim.
The British Columbia car accident lawyers of Warnett Hallen LLP are available 24/7 to take your call, so reach out to us now to schedule your free initial consultation.
How Does ICBC Determine Fault for a Vancouver Car Accident?
To determine fault for a Vancouver motor vehicle collision, ICBC follows a detailed process outlined in the British Columbia Motor Vehicle Act. The Motor Vehicle Act provides a standardized procedure for gathering information and assessing fault. The first step of this process is typically an investigation.
During their investigation, ICBC will review information, such as:
- The police report generated for the accident, if available, which often identifies those involved in an accident, any available witnesses, and sometimes even diagrams of the accident scene
- Visible damage to the vehicles involved in the accident, which can provide useful information about how an accident happened
- Repair estimates, which are used to determine the overall value of a car and the damage it sustained in a crash
- Statements from those involved in the accident and any available eyewitnesses, whose testimony can be very useful, since ICBC generally assumes they will have no stake in the outcome of a particular case
- The rules of the road where the accident occurred, which are reviewed to help determine whether one or more drivers violated these rules
- Previous court decisions for similar incidents
Why Does Fault Matter After an Accident?
ICBC investigations are usually quite thorough. When they are complete, ICBC will make a determination regarding the at-fault party in the accident. This determination is important for your car accident case because if ICBC decides that you were partially or fully at fault, you may not be eligible to recover as much compensation as you would otherwise. Your insurance premiums could increase, too, unless you happen to have a long history of safe driving.
On the other hand, if the other driver or drivers in the accident were found to be at fault, you will likely have more opportunities to be reimbursed for your losses. You may be able to file a claim against other at-fault drivers and seek compensation that would not ordinarily be available from your own insurance policy. This includes compensation for pain and suffering. This is why it’s so important to understand how fault is determined in a Vancouver car accident and how it might affect your unique case.
Can Both Parties Be at Fault for an Accident?
Determinations of fault are rarely black-and-white. ICBC does not always find that one driver is 100 percent at fault for an accident. In some cases, liability will be shared between two or more drivers. This can affect the insurance claims each of those drivers may be able to make. If two or more drivers are found liable, their resulting ICBC claims will likely be reduced in proportion to their respective share of the overall responsibility for the accident.
If you are found partially at fault for an accident, you’ll probably end up paying some or all of your insurance policy deductible, but will still be eligible to recover certain types of benefits from your plan. Basic Autoplan Insurance accident benefits can cover certain accident-related losses for all drivers up to a specific threshold. If you elected to carry collision coverage or other types of insurance, you may receive other benefits as well.
Can I Challenge ICBC’s Determination of Fault?
While ICBC has a very thorough process for determining fault, they are far from infallible. It is possible to challenge their determination if you believe it was made in error. However, ICBC rarely changes initial determinations once their investigations are complete. You will likely need a lawyer if you want to submit a challenge. A lawyer can help you request a claims assessment review or file a formal appeal through the court system to start your challenge.
It’s important to note that ICBC’s determination is not legally binding. If you do legally challenge their decision, the Courts of British Columbia will conduct their own thorough review of the evidence before coming to an independent decision.
Since the courts will make the ultimate decision in any ICBC challenge, it’s especially important to present strong supporting evidence for your case if it gets to this stage. If you are found to be legally at fault by the courts, you may not receive as much compensation as you would otherwise.
Another thing to keep in mind is that if the police issued you a ticket following a Vancouver car accident, you are not prohibited from making an ICBC claim. You have the option to fight the ticket as well. In many cases, people simply pay tickets to avoid making trouble, regardless whether they agree with the underlying reason for the ticket. A car accident lawyer can work with you to challenge a wrongful ticket and ensure you aren’t on the hook for damages you didn’t cause.
Can I Still Get Compensation If I Was Determined to Be at Fault?
Whether or not you are found at fault, British Columbia’s required no-fault insurance policies will still likely provide coverage for you, your passengers, and any members of your household affected by the accident. Basic Autoplan Insurance typically covers losses related to medical treatment expenses and wage losses from missed time at work.
If you have collision coverage as well, that should cover the costs of any vehicle repairs or replacement. While most Vancouver residents will be able to recover no-fault benefits for their accident-related losses, anyone determined to be more than 25 percent liable for a wreck will almost certainly see a noticeable increase in their monthly insurance premiums.
What to Do If I Am Not at Fault for a Car Accident
If you were not at fault for a British Columbia car accident, but ICBC determines that you were, it is essential to identify and present evidence to support your claim. If you’ve never handled a car accident claim, it can be difficult to know what to look for. This is where the assistance of a Vancouver car accident lawyer comes in.
An experienced lawyer can help you strengthen your claim by gathering compelling evidence like:
- Statements from other drivers, passengers, or eyewitnesses to the accident
- Testimony from expert witnesses, such as accident reconstruction specialists
- Photographic evidence and video footage from the accident scene
- Repair bills, pay stubs, and other proof of your financial losses
- Medical records and photos of injuries you sustained in your accident
- Information from police reports and toxicology test results, if available
One common concern among people determined to be at fault in car accidents is whether apologizing at the scene could affect their claim. For example, what happens if you blurted out, “I’m sorry!” or “That was my fault!” to others at the accident scene? According to British Columbia’s Apology Act, expressions of sympathy or regret following an accident are not considered admissions of fault. If you made a friendly apology to another driver after a Vancouver accident, you won’t be penalized for it.
How an Experienced Lawyer at Warnett Hallen Can Help
Being the subject of an ICBC investigation can be nerve-wracking. If you have been wrongfully accused of fault for a British Columbia car accident, there’s no reason for you to feel powerless. With the help of the dedicated personal injury lawyers at Warnett Hallen LLP, you can rest assured that your case will receive the professional attention and consideration you need.
To learn more about how we can help your ICBC fault determination case, contact us online or call us now to schedule a free, confidential consultation.