Personal Injury

Take action to protect yourself after an accident: Ford

By Tony Poland, AdvocateDaily.com Associate Editor

The simple act of taking photos after a car accident can help avoid insurance squabbles down the road, Kamloops personal injury lawyer Matthew Ford tells AdvocateDaily.com.

Ford, partner with Cates Ford Epp, says many drivers don’t realize they have an obligation to “make a reasonable effort” to get information from the other person after they have been involved in a collision. They don't often fully comprehend what that means.

He says one of his clients was recently rear-ended by another vehicle and the two drivers got out to survey the damage.

They both agreed to go to their cars to get their licence and insurance information, but instead of returning, the other person sped off.

The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) provides up to $200,000 coverage in the event of a hit-and-run accident as long as the claimant makes “a reasonable effort to ascertain the identity” of the fleeing driver," Ford says.

He says a claim was filed but rejected by the ICBC, "which took the position that my client was face-to-face with the unknown driver for at least a few seconds but failed to ask for a name, phone number and other details.”

When his firm was hired, Ford says they put up posters at the scene of the accident seeking information and also placed an ad in the local newspaper. The efforts fulfilled their obligation with the ICBC, and the client was permitted to claim damages.

Ford says “we were shocked when the ICBC took the position that my client didn’t do everything to ascertain this guy’s name because it seemed quite reasonable” to allow someone to go back to their car to get their information."

However, he says it is a good lesson for others about the need to be proactive in the event of an accident.

“The first thing that I would do is take a photo of the other car. Make sure you can figure out the make and model and the colour,” Ford advises. “Take a photograph of the licence plate as well.”

He says taking a photo of the plate may also discourage someone from fleeing the scene.

“Even if the plate on the vehicle is stolen and the driver takes off, that picture is still really good evidence that you were actually involved in a hit and run,” says Ford.

He advises getting the name and phone number of the driver immediately after an accident, so you at least have basic information.

"Next, you want to get the insurance particulars and the driver’s licence number as soon as possible,” Ford says.

If a driver flees after an accident before you get any details, he says there are still other steps to take.

"You have to report the accident to the police and ICBC right away, and then, as soon as possible, you have to post signs at the scene seeking information and the identity of the other driver," says Ford.

Running a newspaper advertisement seeking information may lead to the hit-and-run driver, he says. He also suggests knocking on doors in the area seeking witnesses.

"To protect yourself in court, you want to run the gamut. You want to do all those things, and then there can be no fault ascribed to you," Ford says. "It’s important for people to know that they have to make these efforts. And, of course, seek the advice of a lawyer right away if you’ve been involved in a hit and run."

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