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If I hit a dog with my car, will I have to pay the vet bills?
What are the legal consequences here?

If I hit a dog with my car, will I have to pay the vet bills? - Answer

The big question here: was the accident unavoidable, or did your reckless driving cause the accident and injuries to the animal? 

For motor vehicle accidents in BC, ICBC will typically get involved to determine who is liable. One of their adjusters will analyze the facts at hand. They’ll also look at the pet owner’s behaviour to decide whether the owner took proper care in keeping the animal off the roadway.

ICBC requires motorists to have a minimum of third-party liability insurance. This means you’d be covered up to $200,000 if a third party (including an animal) is injured and has resulting costs (like medical bills). So, when you hit an animal with your car, it’s ICBC that will typically take care of your defense, since they provided you with insurance. You can always buy excess liability insurance directly from ICBC or from a private insurer to go above that $200,000 cap (in which case, your private insurer may be the one handling your defense).

But just because ICBC will pay, it still matters if you’re held liable. Your insurance premiums will undoubtedly go up. If you don’t agree with ICBC’s decision, you can appeal to the next level of court. For claims up to $50,000 involving motor vehicle accidents, the Civil Resolution Tribunal has jurisdiction for appeals from ICBC-adjudicated decisions.

David Kandestin
People's Law School
Reviewed October 2020

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