How often are you confronted by someone you know, who asks to borrow your vehicle? How often are you asked to take someone you know to one place or another and you say…. “here take my car/truck”…and hand them the keys. Have you heard of Don’t Ask…Don’t Tell?

Has it ever occurred to you that this momentary decision may have put you in breach of your policy of Insurance? In case you never thought about it, the decision to allow someone to operate your vehicle is largely dependent on what you ask and what you are told.  This is clearly a situation where don’t ask…don’t tell, does not apply….or put another way in this situation, ignorance will not be bliss.

Don’t Ask…Don’t Tell.

Simply put, it is a breach of your policy of vehicle insurance with ICBC if you allow an individual who is not properly licensed to operate your vehicle.

You might have assumed the person who you are allowing to use your vehicle has a license to drive it. Are you entitled to assume that?

If nothing goes wrong of course, the question never comes up….it’s when the person using your vehicle is responsible to some degree, for causing an accident, and it is subsequently determined they were not qualified to be driving, that bad things start to happen.

The reason we have insurance in the first place is to protect us from others when our vehicle is involved in an accident and we are sued by the other(s) involved. If the insurance is not valid because the policy terms have been breached, you are on the “hook” for all the costs, expenses and damages.

What I want to tell you is, as the owner of a vehicle, you have steps you need to take to be reasonably sure that the individual you are handing your vehicle keys to, has a valid license to operate the vehicle.

I said “reasonably sure” because the test will be if you acted reasonable and prudent in the situation, before handing someone your car keys.

With Don’t Ask…Don’t Tell. Can you?

  • assume the person has a valid driver’s license
  • rely on the person saying “I have a license”
  • be required to insist on seeing the license for yourself

The answer(s) are maybe, maybe not….so it will depend upon the circumstances.

Business operators will be held to a higher standard responsibility than a homeowner, or at least the Court decisions to date would suggest that.

In the case of Border Trucking v ICBC [1999] B.C. J. no. 2735, the Court held that the owner of a trucking company took reasonable and prudent steps when he checked the driver’s license and reviewed the driving record from the Supt. of Motor Vehicles.

In the case of Jordison v ICBC 2006 BCPC 250 (CanLII), the Court held the owner of the company had to do more than rely on an assumption the employee had a valid license.

In this case, the employee, who regularly operated the owner’s vehicle once or more per week,  did not own a vehicle when he was hired, or for the 5 years he worked there and the employee had disclosed he had a motorcycle accident with an ICBC claim over $50,000.00. In the commercial setting, the owner/employer must actually view the license as a minimum to be taking reasonable and prudent inquiries.

In the case of Bareham v Desrochers, 1994 CanLII 1205 (BCSC) the Court held once an owner has an indication that an authorized driver has committed some kind of motor vehicle offence, it would only be reasonable and prudent for the owner to investigate more fully before allowing continued use of the vehicle.

Ms. Desrochers’ son, who was using her vehicle while attending University, had told her he was convicted of some kind of motor vehicle offence; she made no further inquiries and assumed it was minor, involving a fine….in fact, he had been convicted of impaired driving and his license was suspended. She was held to be in breach.

In the case of Kennedy v ICBC 1993 CanLII  2542 (BCSC)  the owner made no inquiries after being told that the driver had previously owned and driven a motorcycle similar to the one in the case.

The Court held that the owner at the very least ought to have inquired if the driver was presently in possession of a valid driver’s licence that legally entitled her to operate a motorcycle in B.C.; failure to do so was a breach of her policy of insurance.

Don’t be embarrassed to ask the tough questions…tell them I told you to.


The information provided above is for educational purposes only. This information is not intended to replace the advice of a lawyer or address specific situations. Your personal situation should be discussed with a lawyer. If you have any questions or concerns, contact a legal professional.

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