Jesse Jones

‘You’re liable 100%’: Issaquah family stuck paying the bill for hit-and-run in BC parking lot

The Welsh family’s van looks good now, but earlier this summer its bumper was wrecked after it was involved in a hit-and-run crash in a British Columbia grocery store parking lot.

“The witnesses said that he hit it, and then his bumper got entangled with our bumper. And so he went back and forth,” said Jeff Welsh, who lives in Issaquah.

“Ultimately, (he) just ripped it off. Like, drove forward with speed to rip it off through the parking lot,” added Kristi Welsh, Jeff’s wife.

The driver who hit their car was ticketed by the Mounties, and the total damage was over $2,000.

So Kristi contacted ICBC, an insurer owned by the government of British Columbia, as every vehicle in BC must have its basic plan.

“The first flag was calling ICBC and being told that they won’t talk to me and it has to go through my insurance company,” said Kristi.

Since May of last year, BC has evidently banned most lawsuits for bodily injury and vehicle damage, instead moving to a fault system.

For Canadians, no lawsuits means rates fell by an average of 28% and no maximum limits for medical care and recovery after an accident.

For Americans, it means if you get into an accident in BC, you are on your own.

“What if we had been in the car? What if our car hadn’t been drivable and we would have had to rent a car and somehow get it back to the U.S.?” asked Kristi. “This was a very best-case scenario for a learning experience. It could be a lot worse.”

Jesse Jones spoke with Kenton Brine with the NW Insurance Council about the Welsh’s experience. The group represents several of the major insurance companies in the region.

“I called you about this Canada thing. What did you think?” asked Jones.

“Oh, I was just absolutely stunned. I’ve never heard of something like this before,” said Brine. “And it worries me that a lot of people don’t know about it.”

He says if you only have liability insurance on your car, drive very carefully in BC.

“The coverages that you need are the coverages that protect you, your passengers and your vehicle. And those are coverages like personal injury protection, comprehensive coverage, collision coverage, and underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage,” Brine said. “Those are the policies that protect you, your passengers and your vehicle.”

Jones contacted ICBC and was told the same story in a written statement:

“If an out-of-province vehicle is damaged in a crash in B.C., the ban on lawsuits applies and each insurer is responsible for paying for the repair costs of its customer’s vehicle.”