15 Jun Driving Without the Vehicle Owner’s Consent

The recent decision of Schoenhalz v. ICBC, 2016 BCSC 661, considered the issue of whether the Plaintiff, who was a passenger in a vehicle, knew or ought to have known that the driver did not have the vehicle owner’s permission to drive the car.


The teenage Plaintiff, Ms. Schoenhalz, and several of her friends went on an overnight trip to a campground. The owner of the car gave permission for her son to drive the car for the weekend.


After arriving at the campsite, the Plaintiff and a friend decided to go on an errand with the car. The friend was 15 years old at the time and did not have a license.  The friend decided to drive the car because the Plaintiff was not comfortable driving a manual.  At some point the friend lost control of the car and it went over an embankment, rolling several times and injuring the Plaintiff.


Car insurance purchased by the owner will cover all those who drive the vehicle with the owner’s consent. The issue of the owner’s consent was significant because the friend did not have the permission of the owner or the owner’s son to drive the car, so she did not have any insurance to cover the Plaintiff’s injuries.


The insurance scheme in British Columbia provides compensation for those who are injured in car accidents where the driver does not have insurance.  This compensation is seen as a ‘last resort’ and is known as Uninsured Motorist Protection, or ‘UMP’. However UMP does not apply where the passenger accepts a ride knowing that the driver does not have permission to drive the car.


Luckily in this case the Court found that the Plaintiff was very young and would not have known to inquire as to whether her friend had the consent of the owner to drive the car. The Court held that an ordinary 17 year old girl would not turn her mind to the question of consent when asked if she wanted a ride.


This case highlights the need for passengers to be aware of whether the driver of the vehicle is the owner or has the consent of the owner to drive the car. Willingly getting into a vehicle, knowing it is being driven without the owner’s permission, could result in losing access to the owner’s insurance policy should you become involved in an accident.