It can be confusing to determine the principle operator under ICBC auto insurance when reporting a car accident claim to the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia.  The issue in this case: who drove the automobile the majority of the time? must be established in the evidence ( Schaffner v. Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, 2015 BCSC 314) . The claimant’s truck was  damaged and her ICBC claim was denied as ICBC alleged that the Principle Operator was not properly declared when the Claimant applied for insurance.

  • Determining the Principle Operator

You need to know that the Insurance (Vehicle) Regulation, B.C. Reg. 447/83, defines principal operator as follows:

“principal operator” means the person who will operate the vehicle described in an application for a certificate for the majority of the time the vehicle is operated during the term of the certificate.

In this case there was evidence, corroborated by her friends, that the claimant was the one driving the children to and fro, doing the errands, seeing and helping her friends, shopping and going on family visits. The claimant did the daily driving.  The husband on the other hand was a couch potato, worked from home and only used the vehicle when going on hunting trips.
The following checklist of evidence will help the principal operator prove they used the vehicle the majority of the time:

  1. Corroborating testimony of friends, family and co-workers;
  2. Testimony of the spouse or other users of the vehicle;
  3. Parking passes or employee car registration; and
  4. Evidence regarding driving obligations such as grocery shopping, school pick-up and drop-off, errands and recreational activities.
  • Wilfully False Statements to ICBC

Also it is  important when reporting an accident to ICBC is to know:

A contract of insurance is one of utmost good faith and one cannot commit frauds or make wilfully false statements about the subject matter of the claim for any purpose without risking the loss of the right to indemnity if it turns out to be material on any issue:  Inland Kenworth Ltd. v. Commonwealth Insurance Co. (1990), 48 B.C.L.R. (2d) 305 at 310.

Expect that if the use of the vehicle is in issue, as in this case,  ICBC may deny the vehicle damage claim on the basis of:

1.     Wilful misrepresentations when obtaining insurance for the vehicle, namely describing the claimant  as principal operator; and/or

2.     Wilful misrepresentations in the ICBC claim, namely describing the claimant as principal operator, and the act of providing keys said to be for the vehcile.

That’s because Section 75 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act says that all claims by an insured are invalid and coverage forfeited if the insured knowingly misrepresents or makes a wilfully false statement with respect to the claim.

  • Misrepresentations about the Principle Operator

An allegation that there has been a misrepresentation as to principal operator during the investigation,  can be based, as in this case, on  ICBC statements that a claimant or a spouse makes to the ICBC adjusters. The adjuster for ICBC reviewed the file and then contacted an ICBC special investigation unit member.
The Court in this case found that there was no wilful misrepresentation  either on the obtaining of the insurance or in the claims process.
Although the claimant in Schaffner v. ICBC was successful is proving the Principle Operator, the cost of proceeding in Supreme Court may not have been  worth the award, which was only $4,800.00 for damage to the stolen vehicle.

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