Passengers now Insured by ICBC
ICBC has lost this important injury insurance law appeal, the court concluding that the word “use” includes the grabbing of a the steering wheel by a passenger(Felix v. Insurance Corporation of British Columbia,2015 BCCA 394). This bold decision by Madam Justice Bennett brings insurance coverage to all British Columbia passengers that take control of a vehicle, when it is used as a motor vehicle.
In this case the passenger grabbed the steering wheel crashing the vehicle killing himself and injuring the claimant. The passenger had became intoxicated and argumentative before getting into the car and the claimant took the driver’s seat of her automobile.

The claimant sued the passenger’s estate, and although notified of the action, ICBC did not participate and was awarded the sum of $791,950 plus $71,292.63 in assessed costs.  ICBC refused to pay and the claimant then sued ICBC to recover the judgment amount plus interest. She sought indemnity for the Estate of the passenger from ICBC for her loss. The trial judge dismissed the claim for indemnity indexed at 2014 BCSC 166.

The claimant successfully appealed from that decision.  The passenger was found to be, pursuant to s. 63(b) of the Revised Regulation (1984), B.C. Reg. 447/83, “an individual who, with the consent of the owner … uses or operates the vehicle described in the owner’s certificate. As the court has clarified:

“…For coverage to exist, there must be an unbroken chain of causation linking the conduct of the user as a user of a motor vehicle to the injuries in respect of which the claim is made.”

[49]  In Amos, the Court said, at para. 26, “Generally speaking, where the use or operation of a motor vehicle in some manner contributes to or adds to the injury, the plaintiff is entitled to coverage.”  See also Westmount (City) v. Rossy, 2012 SCC 30 at para. 42.

[50]  While a passenger, or user, in a moving automobile, [he] grabbed the steering wheel causing the accident that led to Ms. Felix’s injuries. It matters not for these purposes that he did not intend to take control of the car. He intentionally (and negligently) grabbed the wheel while he was “using” the vehicle. As a result, Ms. Felix suffered injury. There is, in my view, a clear unbroken chain of causation from his negligent act to her injuries. I would not disagree with the trial judge on this point.

This case will force ICBC to provide insurance coverage for passengers that negligently cause death and injury in use of a motor vehicle as this is consistent with the legislative scheme to “provide a universal, compulsory insurance program… and access to compensation for those who suffer losses” from motor vehicle accidents.

Posted by Vancouver Personal Injury Lawyer Mr. Renn A. Holness, B.A. LL.B.

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