Understanding ICBC’s role in out-of-jurisdiction accidents

Accidents are never pleasant, but having a car accident outside of British Columbia can add a layer of complexity. Your ICBC policy is valid in other provinces and in the United States. However, your policy may provide a limited scope of that coverage. This is especially the case if you need to pursue an “at fault” driver when the accident happens away from home. It’s helpful to understanding ICBC’s role when the accident occurs outside of your home province.

ACCIDENTS IN BC

When an accident occurs in BC, ICBC is on one hand your insurer, which is contractually bound to offer coverage for certain treatment expenses and related income loss, as part of your policy. In this role, ICBC is also required to pay for damages that may be assessed against you, arising from mistakes that you make on the road.

At the same time, ICBC is also the insurer for the other party in the accident, and in that role ultimately responsible for paying damages to you in a “tort” claim, if the other party is found liable for damages that you suffer. Compensation is paid in to you by ICBC in its capacity as the other party’s insurer.

The distinction is often muddled, as the same ICBC adjuster will often concurrently deal with you on benefits under your policy (commonly termed “no fault” or “Part VII” benefits), as well as discuss compensation being offered to you, in ICBC’s other role as the other side’s insurer.

ACCIDENTS OUT-OF-PROVINCE

When an accident occurs in another province or abroad, ICBC’s role is confined to that of your insurer only. If you are involved in an accident while traveling, your claim would be governed by the laws of that jurisdiction.

An accident in Bellingham for example, will usually be bound by the laws of Washington state, and the defence of any action brought would be handled by the US insurer for the American driver. Any Court proceedings will also likely take place in Washington state. A myriad of issues can arise given the differences in laws and limitation periods dealing with claims in a foreign jurisdiction, and you should move quickly to ensure that someone is there to assist you in navigating through the complexities of a claim being brought out-of-province.

Further, laws in many US states often mandate a much lower minimum “third party coverage” threshold (the amount of coverage available to the other side’s insurer to satisfy your claim), which means that additional steps must be taken early on, to ensure your rights are fully protected.

 

Specific thought also must be given to the Underinsured Motorist Protection (“UMP”) provisions of your ICBC Basic Autoplan policy, which offers you protection in the event that that at-fault driver does not have sufficient coverage. While this is a contractual benefit, specific steps must be taken to secure the protection of this coverage in the event that there is a shortfall. A lawyer should be able to assist in making the determination whether you will likely need to turn to UMP. For added protection, ICBC also offers optional “Extension UMP” coverage, which can be purchased to offer further protection.

In cases which the accidents occurred elsewhere but involving only BC drivers (who would all be insured by ICBC), the parties can agree to have the matter dealt with in BC. In those instances, the parties can agree to attorn or agree to the jurisdiction of the BC courts so as to simplify the process, though foreign laws may still apply.

Bottom line:  before you drive outside of B.C., it’s a good idea to contact your insurance broker to obtain the right coverage.  If you do get in an accident while away from home, consider hiring a lawyer to help you navigate the aftermath.

If you have any questions regarding ICBC related matters, please contact Derek Young at derekyoung@cbelaw.com or 604.273.6411.