To determine if you are entitled to compensation from ICBC for injuries suffered in a motor vehicle, the first step is to identify who was liable or at fault for the collision. This is known as liability. Determining who was at fault for the accident is important because a claim for compensation is based in negligence against the at fault driver and his/her insurance. This is where ICBC gets involved. If the at fault driver had ICBC insurance, ICBC will defend the at fault driver against your claim.
Sometimes, there is a question over whether a motor vehicle accident was actually caused by a driver’s negligence or whether it was caused by an inevitable accident. If the accident was inevitable through no fault of the driver, then ICBC can deny compensation. This is because an inevitable accident acts as a complete defence to an injury claim.
As a general rule, the defence of inevitable accident relates to internal factors of the driver and his/her vehicle. Examples of these internal factors include a medical condition (i.e. seizure, stroke, heart attack) or car mechanical failure (i.e. faulty steering or brakes).
In Nasser v Roffey 2019 BCSC 1263, the injured claimant was rear-ended by the defendant. At the time, the defendant had been suffering from a bronchial infection with a cough in the weeks leading up to the motor vehicle accident. Although he was feeling better on the day of the motor vehicle accident, he admitted he was not 100% healthy at the time. Just before the collision, he felt a cough coming on and he tensed up because his stomach and ribs were sore. He coughed once, tensed for a second cough, and then lost consciousness. He testified that he did not anticipate this and he did not think he was going to have prolonged coughing. He also testified that after regaining consciousness he heard his passenger saying “brake, brake, brake” a split second before the collision. He argued that there was nothing he could have done at that point to avoid the collision. In the days that followed the motor vehicle accident, he had 3 more episodes of loss of consciousness. He then eventually fully recovered.
The trial judge stated that, in order to successfully prove rely on the defence of inevitable accident, ICBC must prove that the motor vehicle accident could not have been prevented by reasonable care on the part of the defendant. The claim was ultimately dismissed on the basis of the defence of inevitable accident. In reaching this conclusion, the trial judge found that the defendant’s loss of consciousness was not foreseeable because of what was at most a cough or two. He had previously not lost consciousness because of coughing. On this basis, it was found that he had no reason to believe that a single cough or 2 would render him unconscious. The trial judge clarified that this situation was unlike someone suffering from diabetes or epilepsy in that the defendant did not have an underlying medical condition for which he was expected to take additional precautions. In that situation, knowledge of having such a medical condition and the possibility that it may interfere with the ability to drive would be considered foreseeable and, therefore, negligence (fault) would be proven.
An example of a driver who would be considered at fault due to knowledge of a prior medical condition where the defence of inevitable accident would not succeed is outlined in this CBC article.