Sep 6, 2017

Who to Sue for Injuries Incurred in a Multi-Vehicle Accident

Ffraser v Alberta (Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Act, Administrator), 2015 ABQB 541 (CanLII)

Knowing who to sue when you have been personally injured in motor vehicle accident in Alberta is generally not difficult, as the owners and operator of at-fault vehicles may be liable for injuries and are thus commonly named as defendants in any action filed with the court. It is therefore important for anyone involved in a motor vehicle accident to obtain identification from the operator of other vehicles involved in an accident.

The issue of who to sue is complicated where the accident is a large multi-vehicle pile-up. It is not always clear whether an injured party is required to sue the owners and operators of all of the vehicles involved.

The Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench addressed this issue in the case of Ffraser v. Alberta (Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Act, Administrator), 2015 ABQB 541. In Ffraser, the Plaintiff suffered a brain injury during the course of a multi-vehicle accident in which her vehicle was hit at least five separate times. As the Plaintiff was in and out of consciousness and removed from the accident scene by ambulance she was unable to obtain any identifying information, at the accident scene, about the vehicles who may have hit her. Furthermore, the police collision report and the sixty accompanying witness statements did not provide further insight as to whose vehicle struck the plaintiff’s. On further questioning of some of the witnesses, eight parties were identified who admitted that they thought they hit a vehicle that could have been the Plaintiff’s.

This left the Plaintiff in an unenviable situation. It would possibly have been an abuse of process for the Plaintiff to sue the owners and operators of all sixty vehicles, however, if she only sued the eight vehicles acknowledging potential responsibility she may have missed a negligent party.

The Plaintiff thus sought, to sue the Administrator of the Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Act, RSA 2000, c M-22 on the basis that the responsibly parties were unidentifiable or unascertainable.

Where the owner and operator of an at-fault vehicle are unknown and unascertainable, Alberta legislation permits an injured individual to file an action naming the Administrator of the Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Act as the defendant, and to seek recovery from the Motor Vehicle Accidents Claims Program. In order for a plaintiff to be successful in an action against the Administrator, the court must be satisfied that “all reasonable efforts” have been made to ascertain the identity of unknown owner and operator.

The Court in Ffraser, considered what actions the Plaintiff had to undertake in order to identify the owner or operator of the vehicle(s) that struck her in order to have fulfilled the requirement of completing “all reasonable efforts”. Specifically, the issue who whether in light of the Plaintiff’s inability to interview potential defendants at the accident scene, “all reasonable efforts” had subsequently been made by conducting a review of the sixty witness statements and further questioning of some of the witnesses .

The Court held that in the circumstances the Plaintiff had met the requirement of having made “all reasonable efforts” pursuant to the legislation. In reaching this decision the Court intimated that financial considerations were relevant in determining what efforts were reasonable, and holding that the legislation did not require the Plaintiff to take every step that could possibly have resulted in ascertaining the names of the parties who may have struck her vehicle.

If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident involving an unidentified owner and operator you should consider speaking with a lawyer regarding whether you have a claim against Administrator of the Motor Vehicle Accidents Claims Act.