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BC Government Rate Fairness Survey Closes April 5th

Monday, June 11th, 2018

| Apr 5, 2018 |

The BC government is encouraging citizens to complete the public engagement questionnaire on how ICBC’s Basic insurance rates are determined, to help make insurance rates more fair and hold drivers more accountable for their decisions and driving behaviour.

The survey closes at 4:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 5th. It can be found online at http://engage.gov.bc.ca/ratefairness/.


Court Rules Home Owners Have No Duty of Care When Tenant’s Dog Injures Others

Sunday, June 10th, 2018

Source: Erik Magraken: BC Injury Law and ICBC Claims Blog

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing the legal liability of a home owner whose tenant’s pet injures another.

In today’s case (Barlow v. Waterson) the Plaintiff alleged that a dog owned by the Defendant was off leash and caused her injury.  In the course of the lawsuit the Plaintiff sought to add the homeowner of the residence where the Defendant was residing as an additional Defendant.  The court rejected this application finding that even if all the allegations the Plaintiff was advancing were true the Defendant home owner owed no duty of care in the circumstances.  In dismissing the application Master Wilson provided the following reasons:

[13]         In this case, Mr. Seifi is not an occupier of the premises, having yielded control when he rented them to Ms. Waterson. Ms. Waterson was not Mr. Seifi’s agent as was found in Hindley. Mr. Seifi does not own the dog and therefore does not exercise control over the dog. He is not an occupier of Prospect Avenue, which presumably belongs to the municipality. He had no duty to control the dog owned by the defendant Waterson and had no ability or obligation to control or to limit activities on the property, let alone activities on the road adjacent to the property. To the extent there may be a bylaw regarding off leash dogs, that would be Ms. Waterson’s concern.

[14]         As for the allegation regarding adequate fencing in the proposed amended notice of civil claim, I agree with counsel for Mr. Seifi that there is no allegation that the dog here even escaped. In fact, the plaintiff’s evidence provided by way of her daughter’s email suggests that Ms. Waterson would routinely permit the dog to roam freely. This would suggest a failure to supervise or control the dog by Ms. Waterson as opposed to a failure to provide adequate fencing, a duty that would have been owed to Ms. Waterson but was not alleged by her in her Response to Civil Claim.

[15]         In the circumstances, although the threshold is a low one, I am not satisfied that Mr. Seifi owed any duty of care in this case to the plaintiff, and the application is dismissed.


B.C.’s tight rental market has landlords asking personal questions: report

Sunday, June 10th, 2018

| Mar 27, 2018 |

Some landlords in British are asking prospective tenants for too much personal information including credit card details, three months worth of bank statements and inquiring whether applicants were born in Canada, says the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner.

Acting commissioner Drew McArthur said 1.5 million people live in rental housing, representing about 30 per cent of all households in B.C., but the vacancy rate is so low across much of the province that landlords are taking advantage of the power imbalance.

“Housing is big business in B.C.: In one estimate, residential tenancy generates a greater direct impact on GDP than the mining or forestry industries,” McArthur said in a report released March 22, 2018.

Nationally, the urban centres with the lowest vacancy rates are all in British Columbia, with the province’s overall vacancy rate at 1.3 per cent, he said, adding Vancouver’s rate is 0.9 per cent. The lowest rate is in Abbotsford-Mission and Kelowna at 0.2 per cent.

McArthur said his office is investigating whether a new service complies with the Personal Information Protection Act in its collection of information about tenants from sources including social media platforms, which landlords are not authorized to search.

“In addition, I understand that some of these organizations require prospective tenants to complete behavioural questionnaires to evaluate their character,” McArthur said.

The Human Rights Code also prevents landlords from asking for information about race, religion and family status, McArthur said.

“You also cannot inspect an applicant’s current residence or ask if an applicant may become pregnant in the next 12 months,” he said.

Landlords are authorized to collect a reasonable amount of information, such as references, recent pay stubs, a letter from an employer or permission to call an employer about income, as well as age for rental properties restricted to people over 55.

McArthur said his office receives calls daily from anonymous tenants worried about the over-collection of their personal information though many don’t file complaints because they fear being blacklisted.

In one case, a caller said a landlord asked for copies of their child’s report cards, he said.

“During this investigation, I heard from tenants seeking luxury accommodation as well as basic housing. I heard from young people and from retirees, in urban and rural areas.”

One caller reported a landlord insisted on seeing his T4 slips, even though he had already verified his income by providing a letter from his employer, and another person said a landlord demanded consent to a credit check after an offer to pay one year’s rent in advance.

“A landlord is only authorized to request consent for a credit check where a tenant is not able to provide satisfactory references, or employment and income verification,” the report says. “While it is reasonable to collect a prospective tenant’s credit history in these circumstances, it will not be necessary for most tenants, and a landlord cannot require every applicant to consent to a credit check.”

The report is based on a review of 13 tenancy applications, eight involving for-profit landlords and five that pertain to non-profit organizations. It found 10 of 13 landlords collect information, that, if used, would contravene the Human Rights Code as well as the Personal Information Protection Act.

Information requested included birth date, driver’s licence number, social insurance number, federal tax assessments, whether the applicant speaks English and the name of their bank and how long they’d been a customer there.

The report makes 13 recommendations, including that landlords must state clear, specific purposes for collecting personal information.


Making Bad Drivers Pay

Sunday, June 10th, 2018

| Mar 21, 2018 |

Last week we looked at how we might define a bad driver. Views were varied, but there were two well thought out responses that did more than just express an opinion. This week, let’s look at how bad drivers pay for the risk that they present to others using our highways.

At the top of the list is the Criminal Code of Canada. Part 8 deals with offences against the person and reputation. Here we find homicidecriminal negligence and motor vehicles, vessels & aircraft. These are reserved for the worst of the worst offenders and convictions may result in significant fines and / or time in jail.

Our Motor Vehicle Act and it’s associated Regulations create the framework of rules that we are supposed to follow when we drive. Disobey one of these and you might receive a violation ticket with a prescribed fine. The fine amount should reflect the seriousness of the offence, the more dangerous the act, the higher the fine.

There are some problems with this system. First among them is that the fine may be a life altering penalty for those with no financial means and the bite of a gnat for those with significant resources.

Yes, the court system exists to reduce the penalties to be more fair in the circumstances, but my experience there is that those of limited means seldom take advantage of it. Also, there is no provision to increase the fine beyond the prescribed fine in traffic court.

Some countries use a Day Fine system where the penalty is based on the offenders daily income level to make the penalty more appropriate.

If the circumstances are out of the ordinary but do not call for criminal sanctions, the offending driver may be served with an appearance notice instead of a violation ticket. A provincial court judge will hear the case and may apply a variety of penalties on conviction. These may range from probation orders to fines, prohibitions from driving and jail sentences.

The second problem that comes to mind is the high threshold for sanction of experienced bad drivers in the Driver Improvement Program.

Additions to the penalty system include the Immediate Roadside Prohibition program (IRP) for alcohol and drug impaired drivers and the Vehicle Impoundment program for the IRP, excessive speeding, driving while unlicensed, prohibited or suspended, stunting and not being seated properly on a motorcycle.

The Driver Penalty Point Premium is based on driving convictions and paid to ICBC each year. The more penalty points you are assigned, the more you pay. This part of the Motor Vehicle Act Regulations is overdue for revision. A red light conviction is 2 points, as is parking next to a yellow curb if you are ticketed for disobeying a traffic control device.

The Driver Risk Premium is meant to penalize drivers who have shown that they present a significant danger others through a driving related Criminal Code conviction, a 10 penalty point violation, excessive speeding or a distracted driving conviction.

If you are an at fault driver in a collision, you will either lose your safe driving insurance discount or the possibility of forgiveness should you experience another at fault collision.

Finally, the courts, RoadSafetyBC in Part 2 or the roadside prohibition requirements of Part 4 of the Motor Vehicle Act serve to remove driving priviliges entirely as a penalty.

This is quite an array of possibilities, isn’t it? With all of this in place, one wonders why there are still so much bad driving behaviour on our roads.


Police warn buyers of online fraud and auto theft

Sunday, June 10th, 2018

| Mar 20, 2018 |

Excerpted article was written by: DAVID BLOOM
Edmonton Journal 

An Edmonton couple thought they had finally found their dream RV when they spotted an online classified ad in July of 2017. A month later their dream vehicle had been seized by police and they were out over $19,000.

The local couple, who did not wish to be identified, were one of 32 victims in 2017 that purchased a stolen vehicle. As part of Fraud Prevention Month the Edmonton Police Service is warning people to be aware of online sale scams including the purchasing of used vehicles.

“There was never ever any sense that we were buying from sketchy people. Or anything suspicious,” said the couple, who unknowingly purchased the stolen RV. “We buy off Kijjii. We’ve often bought off (Kijjii).”

“When purchasing previously owned vehicles through an online classified ad, the onus is on the buyer,” says Det. Gerard Forde of the Edmonton Police Service Major Crimes auto theft Unit. “Buyers need to research the product. Check the VIN. Ask Questions.”

In 2017 over 4,000 vehicles were stolen. Less than a quarter of them were recovered.

A 10-step buyer’s guide is available on the EPS website to help people avoid buying a stolen vehicle.


Today, we’re giving you a peek into the intriguing world of insurance fraud

Sunday, June 10th, 2018

| Mar 16, 2018 |

SGI’s Special Investigations Unit (you DID know we have a Special Investigations Unit, right?) compiled a list of some of their more memorable or interesting cases of the past year.

Fibbers get found out when insurance fraud investigated

He thought a little creative deception could help him scam SGI for $25,000, but one missing piece – a valid postal code – unraveled his plan and voided his entire insurance claim.

That was just one of several files SGI’s Special Investigation Unit (SIU) closed in 2017, saving more than $7 million. The team investigates suspicious insurance claims. Their work helps keep insurance rates low, which benefits all SGI customers – except for the ones who try to commit insurance fraud.

March is Fraud Prevention Month in Canada, and SGI reminds customers that insurance fraud is a problem that costs the insurance industry – and ultimately its customers – millions of dollars every year. Making a false or exaggerated insurance claim jeopardizes your coverage and is a criminal offence.

“Unfortunately, property and automobile insurance fraud is still a reality for every insurance company,” said Penny McCune, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Auto Fund. “There’s this misconception that it’s a victimless crime and if it hurts anyone, it’s only affecting a big corporation. But insurance fraud means higher insurance rates for you, your family, friends and neighbours.”

Here are SGI’s picks for the Top 5 Frauds of 2017:

Deceitful receipts

A theft claim was made under an SGI CANADA property policy for a number of expensive items including clothing, computer equipment and jewelry. This fraudster was able to provide several receipts to show the value of the items.

But one receipt in particular raised suspicion; it was for an expensive diamond ring. Most things added up. The jewelry store was legitimate and the address was correct, but it was missing the postal code. In its place was a line that read ZIP CODE.

The cyber-sleuthing skills of SGI’s investigator led to an online receipt generator. Sure enough, the format of the online fake receipt was exactly the same as the one provided for the ring. It all started to click: the site was American and wouldn’t accept a six-character Canadian postal code in the five-digit zip code field.

The jewelry store confirmed the receipt was a fraud and the case was closed with a total savings of close to $25,000. The customer’s entire claim was denied, and his name is flagged in SGI’s system as a future risk. His fraudulent actions could also impact his ability to receive coverage elsewhere.

Called out by the car

One vehicle owner dreamt up the perfect story – or so she thought. She claimed someone hit her parked vehicle and then took off. . . but her vehicle’s onboard computer told a different tale.

Thanks to information downloaded from the Event Data Recorder (EDR) – something most vehicles have today – the investigator learned not only was the vehicle moving at the time of the collision, but the collision also happened on a completely different day than the owner initially reported.

When presented with the findings, the vehicle owner withdrew the claim. Catching the owner in a lie saved SGI, and ultimately its customers, more than $8,000.

Caught on camera

A local business’s video surveillance system saved $14,000 in claim costs.

The vehicle owner said his vehicle was stolen and then found damaged near a local business. SGI’s investigator located a security camera at the scene and reviewed footage from the night of the “theft.” It clearly revealed the owner himself driving the already-damaged vehicle and parking it in the exact spot it was found.

SGI denied the claim and the vehicle owner is facing criminal charges.

A smokin’ scam

In the early morning hours, police and fire services responded to a call of a burning vehicle. The owner claimed he had no idea who would want to vandalize the vehicle.

But the pieces started to fall into place with a neighbour’s tip. Soon it was obvious there was something suspicious about this fire.

Thanks to the neighbour’s willingness to share their security camera footage (they really are everywhere!), the investigator watched an individual approach the vehicle and tinker under the hood for a few moments before leaving the scene. The video showed the vehicle go up in flames moments later. Further investigation connected the owner of the vehicle to the fire.

The owner’s claim was denied, saving an estimated $8,000, and on top of that he’s facing criminal charges.

Hot tip exposes arson

A logging truck broke down on the side of a highway in Northern Saskatchewan. According to the owner, they returned later to have it towed and found it completely burned.

Not long after the claim was made, SGI received an anonymous tip that the owner had intentionally set the truck ablaze. The burnt remains were examined and the investigator found clear evidence the fire was intentionally set. Further investigation confirmed the owner was behind the scam.

SIU looks into every tip they receive, and this one helped to expose a $60,000 fraud. The owner was also charged criminally.

*   *   *

Take it from these would-be fraudsters: if you commit insurance fraud it leads to denied coverage and could result in criminal charges. It also means you’re flagged in SGI’s systems as a future risk, and can make it difficult to receive coverage from other insurers. On top of all that, the bill to fix that “stolen and damaged” property or vehicle is now the attempted fraudster’s responsibility.


Ford recalls almost 1.4M cars; steering wheel can come loose

Sunday, June 10th, 2018

| Mar 15, 2018

DETROIT _ Under pressure from U.S. regulators, Ford is recalling nearly 1.4 million midsize cars in North America _ including 62,479 in Canada _ because the steering wheels can detach from the steering column and drivers could lose control.

The recall covers certain Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ cars from the 2014 through 2018 model years.

Ford says steering wheel bolts can loosen over time. The company says it knows of two crashes and one injury caused by the problem.

Dealers will replace the bolts with longer ones that have more aggressive threads and a nylon patch to stop them from coming loose. Owners will be notified by mail the week of April 30, and parts are expected to be available by then.

Just over 1.3 million cars in the U.S. are being recalled, with the rest in Canada and Mexico.

The recall comes about five months after the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened an investigation into steering wheels falling off of Fusions from the 2014 through 2016 model years.

The safety agency said in documents that it began the probe after receiving three complaints, including one from a driver from Georgia who reported that the steering wheel in a 2015 Fusion fell into their lap when turning into a gas station.

Two other people reported that the bolt attaching the wheel to the steering column came loose while driving and had to be retightened at a repair shop. At the time the agency had no reports of crashes or injuries.

Ford isn’t the only manufacturer to issue a recall for steering wheels coming off. In February, Hyundai recalled 43,900 vehicles which were at risk of the steering wheel breaking away from the steering column. That recall affected the 2018 Santa Fe and Santa Fe Sport SUVs.


New mortgage rules behind slide in B.C. home sales: real estate association

Sunday, June 10th, 2018

| Mar 15, 2018

VANCOUVER _ The British Columbia Real Estate Association says tough mortgage qualification rules are a key reason for a provincewide drop in housing demand last month compared with February 2017.

The association says home sales fell 5.7 per cent in February, with about 6,200 properties changing hands.

Chief economist Cameron Muir says on a seasonally adjusted basis, sales have plummeted more than 26 per cent since new federal mortgage rules took effect at the beginning of the year.

But the association says prices continue to climb, with the average home selling for just over $748,000, an 8.8 per cent jump over February of last year.

The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions implemented new lending guidelines in January that require borrowers who don’t need mortgage insurance to show they would still be able to make payments if interest rates rise.

In order to get insurance, homebuyers must prove they can service their uninsured mortgage at a qualifying rate two percentage points higher than the lender’s rate or the Bank of Canada’s five-year benchmark rate, currently set at 5.14 per cent.


Lawsuits accuse automakers of faulty air bags, recall delays

Sunday, June 10th, 2018

| Mar 15, 2018

By Tom Krisher

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

DETROIT _ General Motors, Fiat Chrysler, Volkswagen and Mercedes all knew of problems with dangerous exploding Takata air bag inflators years before issuing recalls, according to three class actions filed Wednesday with the federal court in Miami.

The lawsuits cite company documents obtained through previous legal actions against other automakers over faulty Takata inflators. The plaintiffs allege that automakers were informed of inflator defects during tests but delayed taking action. Allegations against GM are among the most serious. Takata documents showed that GM employees expressed concerns about inflators rupturing as early as 2003.

Takata uses the chemical ammonium nitrate to create small explosions to inflate air bags. But the chemical can deteriorate when exposed to high temperatures and airborne moisture. That causes it to explode with too much force, blowing apart a metal canister and hurling shrapnel. At least 22 people have died worldwide and more than 180 have been hurt.

The problem touched off the largest series of automotive recalls in U.S. history, with 19 automakers having to recall up to 69 million inflators in 42 million vehicles. The problem brought a criminal conviction and fine against Takata and forced the Japanese company into bankruptcy protection.

GM said Wednesday that it has no reports of its Takata inflators exploding while in use due to ammonium nitrate problems. Fiat Chrysler declined comment, saying it had not been served with the lawsuit. Messages were left Wednesday seeking comment from VW and Mercedes.

The lawsuits, which consolidate individual claims that were filed previously, allege that owners paid higher prices for their vehicles than they would have if the defect had been disclosed.

They allege that manufacturers picked Takata to supply inflators because the cost was less than other air bag makers who used different, less volatile chemicals as propellants. According to the lawsuits, manufacturers had employees who questioned the quality and performance of Takata’s inflators well before any vehicles were recalled.

“These auto manufacturers were well aware of the public safety risks posed by Takata’s airbags long ago, and still waited years to disclose them to the public and take action,” Peter Prieto, lead counsel for the plaintiffs, said in a statement. The lawsuits “are an important step forward in holding them accountable.”

In an April 2003 communication with Takata, GM was concerned about “ballistic variability,” which is a tendency for the air bags to either underinflate or explode when deployed, the lawsuit against GM said. A GM engineer raised concerns about inadequate testing, moisture control and the inability of Takata to meet GM specifications after a 2003 visit to Takata’s factory in Moses Lake, Washington, according to the lawsuit.

In 2004, Takata employees met with GM officials about a tendency for the inflators to shoot flames when they ruptured, and in March of 2006, Takata reported that inflators tested for GM vehicles continued to show “aggressive behaviour,” including the escape of “molten propellant” when they ruptured. A Takata employee admitted “we cannot get good results” with the inflator design, the lawsuit stated.

Yet GM didn’t issue any recalls until June of 2014 when it recalled 29,000 Chevrolet Cruze compact cars from the 2013 and 2014 model years, according to the lawsuit. That recall came after Takata reported three exploding inflators in 2010. “Defendants did nothing to meaningfully investigate the problem, notify the appropriate regulators or notify the class (car owners),” the lawsuit stated.

GM also received reports of real-world problems in 2011 and 2014, including one case in which a Cruze driver was blinded in one eye by an exploding inflator, according to the lawsuit. GM and Takata blamed the trouble on a manufacturing problem instead of the deteriorating ammonium nitrate. “Rather than publicize the truth, both Takata and New GM blamed the ruptures on a manufacturing problem,” the lawsuit alleged.

GM said the Cruze recall isn’t covered by Takata’s recalls for deteriorating ammonium nitrate. The company says the Cruze recall was due to Takata inflators being built with an incorrect part.

Old GM, the company that existed before seeking bankruptcy protection in 2009, knew of the problems, and New GM, the company that emerged from bankruptcy, kept employees who knew and had the same knowledge, according to the lawsuit.

Volkswagen, the lawsuit alleged, had repeated quality issues with Takata dating to 2003, even rejecting products after an audit. Yet no recalls were issued until 2016, the plaintiffs claimed. Daimler AG, maker of Mercedes-Benz vehicles, had concerns about the integrity of Takata inflators in 2003, according to company emails. In 2004, Mercedes engineers agreed to “forego key performance variables” and allow use of Takata inflators, the lawsuit stated. The company didn’t do any recalls until 2016.

Fiat Chrysler didn’t issue its first recall until 2014, even though its engineers expressed concerns about Takata inflators during the early 2000s, the lawsuit stated.

Last year Toyota, BMW, Mazda, Subaru, Nissan and Honda settled similar economic loss class actions for millions of dollars.


How Do We Define A Bad Driver?

Sunday, June 10th, 2018

| Mar 14, 2018

Have you responded to our provincial government’s request for feedback on the setting of fair ICBC rates yet? The hope is to “introduce changes to the current system to make insurance rates more fair for British Columbians by making all drivers more accountable for their decisions and driving behaviour.” The implication here is that bad drivers don’t pay their fair share of insurance premiums.

That begs the not so simple question of just how do we define a bad driver?

Perhaps at the most basic level we have people who will never learn to be a good driver. For a multitude of reasons they will meet the basic level of obtaining a driver’s licence but never progress from there. According to one ICBC driver examiner that I know, passing the test means that you possess sufficient skill to drive without being a significant hazard to others.

The expectation is that you will improve from there.

So, what have you done to improve other than gain experience by driving on your own? Some of us take training required by our employers. Car enthusiast groups promote skill improvement among their members. The rest of us? Well, maybe we’re better than average drivers already and there is no need to improve.

I offered a free hour of driver improvement to DriveSmartBC visitors once and was not exactly inundated with people saying “Pick me!”

Again, for a variety of reasons, we may be a good driver but lose this ability, either abruptly or over time.

Maybe a good driver has a thorough understanding of the driving rules and always follows them. I’ll ask the question again, are you smarter than a learner driver? My experience in traffic enforcement has shown me that many drivers have incomplete knowledge on that subject yet possess a clean driving record.

Do you think that a good driver never drives while their ability is impaired? Drugs and alcohol immediately come to mind here, but fatigue, illness, disabilities and emotion are all factors that can impair our ability to drive well.

What about attitude? Looking at others, I see a lot of “I’m important, you are not. I’m in a hurry, get out of my way!” when I drive. There are also drivers who will readily admit to acts of civil disobedience when the traffic rules don’t suit them. Don’t like it? Don’t bother!

Do only bad drivers become involved in collisions? Hands up those of you among us who have never caused even the slightest damage let alone bumped into something that they should not have. I’m embarrassed to say it, but I lost the ability to do that while still in my teens.

Does being human automatically mean that you will always be a bad driver at some level? No matter how hard I try not to, eventually I make a driving error. Sometimes it is only luck or the skill of other drivers that prevents that error from becoming a collision.

It’s easy to point the finger at others and much more difficult to examine the same thing in ourselves. So, honestly, how do you define a bad driver?