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An Alberta driver got hit by a car in B.C. Who should pay?

Under reciprocal agreement with other provinces, ICBC is not responsible for repairs to an out-of-province vehicle involved in a crash in B.C. But if an ICBC-insured driver needs repairs for a crash outside B.C., his ICBC policy would cover the cost.
"I've already had to pay $2,000 and that's without the body work," says Michael Bergen of the damage to his vehicle caused by a B.C. driver. "ICBC said the other driver was 100 per cent at fault but they told me I have to get my insurance company [in Alberta] to pay." JASON PAYNE, PNG

VANCOUVER — An Alberta couple living and studying in B.C. returned home this weekend with more than the education they earned over the school year after a B.C. driver crashed into their car, causing more than $2,000 in damages.

Michael Bergen said his 2012 Ford Focus was hit by the B.C. driver who entered into a roundabout near the Trans-Canada Highway in Abbotsford while his fiancee, who was driving the car, had the right of way.

ICBC determined the B.C. driver was 100 per cent at fault for the crash that happened earlier this month, leaving Bergen with a hefty repair bill to make his car roadworthy enough for the couple to return to Alberta on Sunday.

“There’s a big dent and the suspension is thrown off. I’ve already had to pay $2,000 and that’s without the body work,” he said. “ICBC said the other driver was 100 per cent at fault but they told me I have to get my insurance company [in Alberta] to pay” for the repairs because ICBC changed to a no-fault insurance model on May 1, 2021.

Bergen’s Alberta broker was “adamant” that his Alberta insurance isn’t responsible for the repairs and “I’m stuck in the middle,” he said.

Because B.C.’s change to a no-fault system takes away the right for drivers to sue for damages, there has been a change to the way drivers are compensated for losses, according to Ron de Puis, national director of consumer and industrial relations for the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

He said in this case it is clear the Alberta insurance company is responsible for repairing Bergen’s car, even though the B.C. driver was 100 per cent at fault, because of an agreement among provinces and territories that require the “first party” insurer to pay for its client’s damages when they drive in a province where there is no right to sue.

“What’s supposed to happen is when an out-of-province driver is in B.C., their insurance policy [from their home province] is expected to provide the mandatory minimum amount of coverage,” said de Puis.

He said it was likely a misunderstanding by the Alberta broker because the change to no fault in B.C. is relatively recent. Alberta agreed to reciprocate payment to its insured members when they suffered damages in another province as of Jan. 1, 2022.

Bergen said as of Friday afternoon he still hadn’t received confirmation from his broker that his insurance company would cover the cost of his repairs. De Puis has offered to assist him.

The emails sent to Bergen by an ICBC staffer said, in part, “Your Alberta insurance’s own damage coverage will pay for your repairs. Feel free to forward my message below to your adjuster to confirm that our insured has been found 100 per cent liable and they will waive your deductible accordingly.”

In an email, an ICBC spokesman confirmed that “Each driver must claim for vehicle damage against their own insurance for accidents in B.C. This is similar to many Canadian provinces with respect to insurance coverage for vehicle damage. If an out-of-province vehicle is damaged in a crash in B.C., each insurer is responsible for paying for the repair costs of its customer’s vehicle.”

De Puis said an exemption would be if someone had operated the vehicle that voided the insurance policy, such as driving without a licence or some other violation.

De Puis said it is a more efficient and less costly way to settle repair claims when there is no option to sue a driver in those with no-fault systems, which includes Manitoba and Quebec.

A similar agreement exists with many U.S. states, where there may be no right to sue for damages.

It’s expected that onus on an insurer to pay for repairs even when its customer didn’t cause the crash would even out because that insurer would not pay for repairs even if its customer is liable for the crash if it happens in its jurisdiction.

ICBC’s website says: “Inverse liability protection covers you in parts of Canada or the U.S. where local laws don’t let you claim against the person who caused your crash. Your vehicle repair costs are covered up to 100 per cent (less if you were partly responsible for the crash).”

Before ICBC adopted the no-fault system, there could have been a lawsuit filed against ICBC by the out-of-province insurer to recover the repair costs. The driver in the accident was covered either way.