Hit and run – what to do if you are in a car accident and the other motorist leaves the scene
Car accidents happen and when they do it is a stressful situation. There are potentially injuries, damage to your vehicle and a myriad of legal issues. All of this is compounded if the other motorist flees the scene. If that happens to you, there are some very important things that you should do to make sure that you are still entitled to the compensation that you need to cover the damages that you suffer.
Your rights and obligations following a car accident are determined in large part by the Insurance (Vehicle) Act. This Act is what ICBC adjusters and lawyers use to determine individual’s rights after they have been involved in a car accident. S. 24 of the Act deals with hit and run accidents, or accidents involving unidentified motorists. If you are involved in a hit and run there are two very important steps that must be taken or your entitlement to damages can be eliminated. These steps are as follows:
- You have to give ICBC notice of the accident as soon as reasonably practical and in any event within 6 months of the accident;
- You have to have taken reasonable steps to identify the other motorist.
Reporting the accident to ICBC in a timely way allows them time to investigate and hopefully to identify the name of the other motorist. You have to satisfy a court, or an adjuster if your case is not proceeding to a trial, that you made all reasonable efforts to ascertain the identity of the other motorist. If you are not able to establish this you are not entitled to compensation. Courts have ruled that ICBC does not have an obligation to tell you about this requirement or to tell you to seek legal advice. Whether reasonable efforts have been made or not depends on the facts and circumstances around the accident and each case is decided on its own particular facts. Some of the circumstances where judges have found that reasonable efforts have been made are:
- Where the injured motorist relied on the police investigation;
- Where the accident was promptly reported to ICBC and ICBC was provided with witness information;
- When the other motorists information could not be obtained because the injured motorists lost consciousness or was injured to the point that they were incapacitated;
- When the injured motorist relied on false information that had been provided by the at fault motorist or when they incorrectly recorded information despite reasonable efforts; and
- When a passenger reasonably relied on the driver to obtain the information.
If you are involved in a hit and run, do the following to ensure that you are entitled to compensation:
- Take all steps that you can at the scene of the accident to obtain the license plate number of the other vehicle;
- Get the names of any witnesses at the scene of the accident;
- Report the accident to ICBC as soon as possible and provide ICBC with any witness information;
- Report the accident to the police and cooperate with their investigation;
- Seek out witnesses to the accident
- Inquire with local businesses whether there is any surveillance video available that may have captured the accident.
Hit and run accidents can be complicated and full of pitfalls that can deprive you of compensation. Seek out experienced legal counsel as soon as possible to make sure that you do not do things that will eliminate your right to compensation.