When ICBC Denies Insurance Coverage for Drinking and Driving
The number one reason ICBC breaches someone of their contract of insurance is if there is an element of drinking and driving and then a motor vehicle accident. They almost always denied coverage if there is a hint that alcohol may have been a contributing factor in the accident. Indeed, ICBC will often breach you of your contract of insurance despite the fact that the police do not charge you criminally with impaired driving but provide you with an administrative penalty. Equally, ICBC will continue to breach you of your contract of insurance even when you beat the impaired driving charge.
In recent times, the government expanded the use of non-criminal charges (“Roadside Suspension’), as part of their anti-drinking and driving policy. Basically, a Roadside Suspension cannot be disputed unless you ask the police officer to administer a roadside screening device and he refused to do so. In essence, the police officer has become the judge and jury.
Therefore, without any real evidence of state of impairment, you can get a Roadside Suspension from the police. ICBC then turns around and says you are in breach of your contract of insurance because you are impaired by reason of alcohol yet getting a Roadside Suspension is not equivalent to being impaired while driving. Indeed, the cutoff for getting a Roadside Suspension is below the legal limit where experts will testify you are impaired by reason of alcohol. Most experts say that the bloodalcohol level has to be at least .10 (not .05) to impair somebody to the point of causing or contributing to an accident.
The case of Smissen v. ICBC 2004 BCSC deals with the onus on ICBC to prove, on a balance of probabilities, that at the time of the accident the person was under the influence of intoxicating alcohol to such an extent as to be incapable of the proper control of his vehicle.
The breathalyzer test, whether administered on the roadside or at the police station, even when the reading is over the legal limit is not enough to prove that someone is incapable of proper control of his vehicle. In Smissen v. ICBC 2004 BCSC there was a 24-hour Roadside Suspension issued after a failed handheld breathalyzer test, but at trial there was evidence that such a machine had to be calibrated every 2 weeks in order to yield valid results and there were no calibration records. Additionally, the driver in this case had a heart condition that caused blackouts, which was ultimately found to be the reason why he veered into the ditch. There was also a witness who observed the path of the vehicle for 8 miles and didn’t notice any erratic driving.
Despite the above noted law, ICBC simply ignores it. When they find out about the Roadside Suspension, and they will, it is almost guaranteed you will get a breach of your contract of insurance.
One point is if you try to hide the fact of the drinking and driving from ICBC they will turn around and also breach you because of a false statement. At some point, ICBC will receive the police report which will have the indication of impairment charge. Therefore, if asked about the drinking and driving you should fully disclose that fact.
If you do start a lawsuit against ICBC for insurance coverage it will be very difficult for ICBC to prove alcohol consumption caused or contributed to the accident because the evidence necessary for ICBC to win on the point is generally gone. All that is left is a police officer saying he found you to be above the legal alcohol limit for driving but again that doesn’t necessarily establish impairment that caused or contributed to an accident. Of course, if you are well above the legal limit at the time of the accident then ICBC will win the case because the higher your blood-alcohol content the more obvious it is that alcohol consumption influenced the accident. The gray area is where you are in the blood-alcohol range at or below .10.
In summary, despite the fact that the law requires ICBC to prove that alcohol consumption caused or contributed to an accident, ICBC ignores the law and in almost all situations will hold you in breach of your contract of insurance. Therefore, you are at the mercy of the police officer who may be overaggressive in providing an administrative penalty to you. The implication could be far greater than simply having to pay a fine for the impaired driving. You could be without insurance coverage and that could be a financial disaster.