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Protect yourself as well as your victims

Protect yourself as well as your victimsA cube shaped Nissan, parked in front of a neighbour’s home, caught my attention as I was on my way home the other day.  My neighbour was chatting with the driver, so I pulled up to ask about it.  The vehicle, which doesn’t look much different than a large SUV, boasts a 12 person seating capacity!

As parents of three school aged children, seating capacity is important.  When shopping for our most recent vehicle, our choice hinged in large part on the 8 person seating capacity of our chosen vehicle.

Are the legal implications, though, of having so many “bums in seats”, if there is a crash?

The obvious practical implication is that the higher the vehicle occupancy, the more people are susceptible to injury.  When high capacity vehicles are being used to ferry children around, those extra people are likely to be children.

These practical implications weigh in favour of taking extra special care to ensure there isn’t a crash.  As I type those words, though, I find them somewhat repugnant; would you really drive less carefully with two children passengers versus eight?

What if you are driving with zero passengers, are you driving with the least level of care because it’s “just you”?  What if you crash into another vehicle loaded with children?

The legal implications flow from the practical implications.

More injured victims mean more people who suffer injuries and losses.  Losses suffered by children, with their entire lives/careers ahead of them, can be significantly greater than for adults.

The greater the losses flowing from a crash, the more money is required to provide fair, financial compensation for those losses.

Where does that compensation come from?  In British Columbia where the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia has a monopoly over liability insurance, it comes from ICBC.  An important thing to recognize, though, is that ICBC’s obligation to step in and pay fair compensation to those you injure extends only to the limit of your liability insurance.

Whatever level of liability insurance you choose to purchase for your vehicle, you will be personally responsible to pay any amount of fair compensation that exceeds that level.  Did you know that if you let someone else drive your car, you join the driver in sharing that personal responsibility?

The law allows you to carry as little as $200,000.00 of liability insurance in British Columbia.  Will that be enough to fairly compensate the occupants of an eight seater vehicle loaded with children who have suffered significant injuries and losses?  Fair compensation for injuries and losses is regularly assessed by our courts, and assessments for only one injured victim regularly exceed that.  Often the assessments approach or exceed $1,000,000.00.

If you carry insufficient liability insurance, it is not only you who suffer direct consequences.  Unless you are in the “top 1%” of independently wealthy Canadians, you will be unlikely to come up with the shortfall which will leave your victims under compensated.

It would be quite bad enough that you caused a crash resulting in a vehicle-load of children being injured.  Leaving those children with less than fair financial compensation for their lifetimes of losses adds horrible insult to injury.

Go to your insurance broker and inquire about increasing the liability insurance you carry on your vehicle.  You will find that an increase to $5,000,000.00 is not terribly expensive.

I am hopeful that this column might assist you and others in understanding the magnitude of losses that can arise from road traffic incidents, thereby resulting in a greater level of driving care and reduction of crashes in the first place.   If a crash does occur, though, please ensure that both you and your victims are protected by adequate insurance.

Published … in the Kelowna Capital News
Posted November 5, 2015 on Kelowna Capital News Online