Driver who wrecked his brakes to avoid clobbering a moose wins ICBC battle

Hurtling toward a burly moose on a remote stretch of highway in northern B.C., Ronald Driedger did what any driver with enough time would do: he slammed his brakes to the floor.

It wrecked his brakes, but took the edge off what could have been a deadly collision: Driediger did hit the moose, but both driver and animal survived.

What followed was a year-long battle between Deidiger and the Insurance Corporation of B.C. (ICBC) over the cost of the $1,700 brake repair.

Driedger argued he was covered, ICBC said he wasn't.

After a flurry of emails and one showdown in B.C.'s Civil Resoluton Tribunal, Driediger won. 

Brakes couldn't stop car 'creeping forward' after crash

A ruling posted online Tuesday said Driediger saw the moose along a highway near Smithers, B.C., northwest of Prince George, late in the evening on Aug. 3, 2018. The decision didn't say how fast Driediger was going when his car hit the moose.

The animal survived and ran off. The 2008 Mazda 3 was still driveable but left with minor body damage, so Driediger filed a claim with ICBC.

"Over the next two days, he noticed his brakes were 'soft.' He had to pump the brakes repeatedly to stop fully. When the vehicle was stopped but in gear, the brakes could not keep the car from creeping forward," the ruling read.

Driediger called ICBC four days after the crash to add brakes to his claim for the body damage.

Robert F. Bukaty/The Associated Press

The insurer denied his brake claim more than a week later, saying he hadn't proved the damage was caused by anything other than wear and tear — which isn't covered.

An estimator said the likely reason for the brake problem was that the master cylinder had failed. The cylinder creates the pressure that feeds brake fluid into the brake circuit.

An ICBC employer told Driediger master cylinders "rarely fail even under abusive driving conditions."

"[The worker] concluded that 'one simple panic stop should under no circumstances result in brake system damage.' In other words, [the worker] did not believe that the hard braking before the collision caused the brake problem," the ruling read.

Driediger appealed with ICBC and the issue then went to another committee within the insurer. That committee said the issue wasn't with the master cylinder, but with a pre-existing fault that meant the brakes would have eventually failed under hard breaking — even if Driediger didn't know about it.

Shutterstock / bunlee

Again, Driediger's claim was denied. He filed a claim with the CRT, which handles small claim disputes in B.C.

ICBC asked for the claim to be dismissed, saying Driediger hadn't proved the moose crash caused the brake failure. The tribunal sided with Driediger.

"The brakes were damaged very close in time to the collision and in the same sequence of events. I find that whether there was a pre-existing issue with the brakes, as ICBC alleges, is not relevant," wrote tribunal member Eric Regehr.

Regehr ordered the insurer to pay Driediger more than $1,900 in compensation. More than $1,700 was awarded to cover the brake repair, as well as additional reimbursement for interest and tribunal fees.

ICBC handled an average 2,900 crashes involving animals in the north central Interior of B.C. between 2013 and 2017.

The Wildlife Collision Prevention Program in B.C. says more than 10,000 wildlife vehicle collisions happen every year in the province, resulting in approximately 570 personal injuries and three deaths.