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If the driver doesn’t have enough insurance, can I still make a claim?

In B.C., drivers are required to carry a minimum amount of “third party liability coverage”. Basically, if you injure someone else in a car accident, and you are liable, the injured person (i.e. the third party) can sue you for the damages. However, if you are the injured party, you have to rely on the third party liability coverage of the driver who injured you. Drivers from outside B.C., e.g. visitors from other provinces or from the United States, may have little or no third party liability coverage. For that reason, ICBC also provides “first party liability coverage”: you insure yourself against someone who doesn’t carry enough insurance. This is called Underinsured Motorist Protection: UMP.

Every vehicle insured in B.C. and every driver insured to drive in B.C. has $1 million of UMP, and you can optionally increase your UMP to $2 million. According to s. 148.1(2) of the Insurance (Vehicle) Regulation, you may have an UMP claim for an accident that:

  1. arises out of the use or operation of a vehicle;
  2. by an underinsured motorist; and
  3. occurs in Canada or the U.S. or on a vessel travelling between Canada and the U.S.
In Beauchamp v. ICBC, 2005 BCCA 507, the BC Court of Appeal ruled that a person falls within the definition of “underinsured motorist” if he or she is:
  1. the owner or operator of a vehicle;
  2. legally liable for the injury or death of an insured; and
  3. unable to pay the full amount of the insured’s damages.
In general, if the other driver has little or no third party coverage, you should consider whether an UMP claim is available.

(written by Troy McLelan)

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