As many Canadian families enjoy trips to the lake during the summer, it is quite common for a trailer to be attached to a vehicle in order to tow boats, camping supplies and a variety of other recreational items. Similarly, in the winter, it is common for drivers to tow snowmobiles on trailers behind their cars. However, it is important that drivers are aware of the liability issues arising from driving with these trailers attached to their vehicles.
The term trailer is defined by the B.C. Insurance Act and the B.C. Motor Vehicle Act as a vehicle that is “at any time drawn on a highway by a motor vehicle, except (a) an implement of husbandry, (b) a side car attached to a motorcycle, and (c) a disabled motor vehicle that is towed by a tow car”. This definition also considers that a semi-trailer, as defined in the Commercial Transport Act, is a trailer under B.C. law. This is a very broad definition which encompasses many types of trailers. Therefore, if you are planning to travel on the roads of B.C. with a trailer attached to your car, it is recommended that you seek clarification on the type of coverage that is needed to insure the trailer. Is Your Trailer Insured? The standard automobile insurance in British Columbia will cover any potential physical damage to a motor vehicle, should an accident occur while towing a trailer. However, there will be no collision or comprehensive coverage of the trailer that you are pulling behind the car. As a result, you should have an additional policy or endorsement for the trailer and items that you are towing. This can protect you financially from any claims relating to damage to the trailer, or damage caused by the trailer, resulting from an accident in which you are considered at fault. Fortunately, car insurance policies in British Columbia do include third party liability coverage which covers the cost of any damage you may cause. If another driver were to damage your trailer as a result of an accident in which they were at fault, that driver’s third party liability insurance would likely cover the damage. However, it is important to consider that the standard third party liability coverage will not cover an accident involving a towed trailer, where the trailer is required to be licensed and you haven’t arranged for this licensing. This exclusion will mean that no damage coverage will be available in relation to accidents caused by, or involved with, a trailer being towed behind your vehicle. Licensing & Coverage There is a very specific process, regulated by ICBC, to register and insure your trailer. One of the stipulations is the trailer’s Gross Vehicle Weight (GSW), meaning the total weight when the trailer is filled with all the gas and equipment you would normally be carrying when travelling. If your loaded trailer weighs 4,600 kg or less (which applies to most recreational trailers), a Class 5 or 7 license is required. If your loaded trailer weighs over 4600 kg, a special upgraded Class 4 or 5 driver’s license is required. In order to check your trailer’s weight you must take it to a weigh scale. Next, separate brakes are required on the trailer if its weight exceeds 1400kg, or more than 50% of the licensed vehicle weight of the towing unit. These brakes, when applied, must be adequate to maintain control of the trailer, must not affect the direction of travel of the trailer and, where the weight of the trailer exceeds 2800 kg, the brakes must be capable of being applied by the driver of the motor vehicle towing the trailer from his or her normal seated position. Further, a special plate is required for trailers, and it will be issued to you by ICBC upon registration. This will either be a utility trailer plate or a commercial trailer plate, depending on your trailer’s use, body style and weight. Trailers within a GVW of 1400 kg may qualify for a utility trailer plate, such as recreational trailer (tent, camper, travel or other similar design), house trailer (designed, constructed and equipped for human habitation) or trailer designed to carry recreational equipment (such as trail bikes, snowmobiles, a boat or a horse). In order to make sure that your trailer is covered by your third party liability policy, you must ensure that it meets all of the rules and regulations as required by ICBC and the legislation. The above mentioned requirements are merely examples, and are not an exhaustive list of the requirements. Filing a Claim with British Columbia Accident Lawyers If you have been injured in a car accident as a result of someone else’s negligence in operating a trailer, or in their negligence in following the required trailer safety regulations, you may be able to pursue a claim against the driver. In these types of lawsuits, expert testimony will be required. However, before the claim is even pursued, a thorough accident investigation will have to be conducted in order to complete a proper accident reconstruction. Medical opinions by health professionals may also be required. In order to proceed, you may seek a consultation with a personal injury lawyer for guidance on whether you are eligible to file a claim. A personal injury lawyer who has experience in these types of highly specialized and complex actions is highly recommended. At Bronson Jones & Company LLP, our accident lawyers in Vancouver British Columbia have the expertise and experience needed for a wrongful death claim. We will review the details of the accident, and the actions leading up to it. We are specialized in personal injury law. No fees are required up front at our firm and instead we would charge fees when the damages are recovered. If hired to represent your case, we will fight hard in seeking the damages you or your family members deserve. Contact an accident lawyer in our 2 Vancouver offices or at our other 11 locations at . We are personal injury motor vehicle accident lawyers that provide a free consultation.