The Insurance Corporation of B.C. is on the hook for damages caused by a Surrey hit-and-run traffic crash after a judge decided Jaspal Ghuman, the driver whose vehicle was struck, did everything he reasonably could to identify the culprit.
“In the end, Mr. Ghuman is not to be held to the standard of perfection,” Justice Sheri Ann Donegan said in her reasons for judgment delivered Jan. 2. “He was proactive from the outset. That he was unsuccessful is of no consequence.”
ICBC tried to have his case, which was heard in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver, dismissed.
The crash happened in west Newton on Nov. 14, 2014
Ghuman, 37, was unable to find out the identify of the offending driver and owner of the vehicle that hit his black Chevrolet Cobalt at the Strawberry Hill commercial complex, near the corner of 120th Street and 72nd Avenue.
He and his wife had been doing some banking at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce in the complex, after arriving in separate cars. He was leaving the parking lot in his car, the court heard, when he was struck by a black or otherwise dark-coloured SUV he believes was a 1990s Chevrolet Jimmy. It reversed into him, with a “bang” and screeching tires, while he was waiting for a light to change, and then sped away.
The court heard Ghuman was confused, as this all happened very quickly, and that he couldn’t find witnesses. He drove home and reported the hit-and-run to police the next day, providing a general description of the SUV but he did not get a licence plate number. Ghuman also reported the crash to ICBC the next day and submitted a form claim four days later. Within a week of the crash, he posted flyers in the area, seeking witnesses but got no bites. In December 2014 he hired a lawyer, who arranged for more signs seeking witnesses to be posted and an ad in the Surrey-North Delta Leader, which ran for a week, but still no witnesses came forward.
Ghuman argued at court that he’d done his due diligence and ICBC should compensate him for the damage to his car. But ICBC submitted he failed to canvass for any witnesses at the scene, failed to call police from the scene or at least on the same day it happened, and that he didn’t seek out video surveillance footage from local businesses.
“I am satisfied this is not a case where there is a risk of fraud,” Donegan decided. “In the absence of such a risk, the test for ‘all reasonable efforts’ should not be made so exacting that it cannot be met by a plaintiff.”
The judge added that in the “particular circumstances” of this case, it was reasonable for Ghuman to have called police the day after the crash.
“Mr. Ghuman reasonably believed that because he was unable to obtain the licence plate or specific details of the SUV’s make and model and had no information to provide about any potential witnesses, that it was unlikely that Surrey RCMP would take any steps to investigate this low impact hit-and-run collision,” she said.
“It is highly unlikely that calling police at the scene or later that evening would have produced any results,” Donegan said.
“I find the plaintiff has met the onus upon him to establish that he made all reasonable efforts to ascertain the identity of the SUV’s owner and driver,” she said, “and that the identity of the unknown owner and driver of the SUV is not ascertainable. Accordingly, ICBC is appropriately named as the nominal defendant to this action and liability is found against ICBC.”