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Government Infrastructure

Each year, the Government of Alberta processes thousands of claims related to vehicle collisions, fires, or spills on provincial highways. When these incidents occur on provincially owned infrastructure such as highways and bridges, the Government of Alberta is responsible for recovering the costs incurred from motor vehicle incidents, managing fires and spills or other damage to the infrastructure.

The following questions and answers were developed to help owners and drivers understand why they are receiving a bill for these costs.

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01.

WHAT ARE SOME EXAMPLES OF DAMAGE THAT CAN OCCUR ON PROVINCIAL HIGHWAYS?

Provincial highways can be damaged because of vehicle collisions, vehicle fires, impacts to bridges, guardrails, signs, light posts, etc. and dangerous goods or other material spills.

02.

WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR FIXING THE DAMAGE TO PROVINCIAL INFRASTRUCTURE?

The Government of Alberta, as the owner of the provincial highways, is responsible for repairing any damage to the highway infrastructure e.g. Guardrails, bridges, signs, light poles, etc.

03.

WHY DOES THE FIRE DEPARTMENT ATTEND?

Alberta Transportation has an agreement with the fire departments to attend when there is an incident on the highway. The fire department is often the first responder to attend to the incident and provide medical services, extrication, traffic control, scene security, extinguishing fires, managing the safe handling of spills and any other services that are required on the highway, ditch or median.

 

The fire department responds on behalf of the Government of Alberta. The Government of Alberta then reimburses the fire department for the costs incurred. The government is legally entitled to recover these costs

04.

WHY IS THE GOVERNMENT ENTITLED TO RECOVER THESE COSTS?

The government is entitled to recover these costs, as outlined in the Highways Development and Protection Act. In much the same way the government manages the health system, it also manages the transportation system. For example, when someone requires an ambulance, there are costs incurred. If a person has medical insurance, the ambulance costs are often covered by their medical insurance, if they do not have medical insurance, they are responsible for paying for the ambulance costs. In the case of the transportation system, automobile insurance often covers the costs associated with the motor vehicle incident. If the vehicle owner/driver do not carry insurance or do not wish to open a claim for the incident, they are responsible for the costs incurred in the incident.

05.

WHY IS THIS NOT COVERED BY TAXES?

Section 51 (1,2 and 3) of the Highways Development and Protection Act states that the province may recover by means of an action in debt, the costs of removing an obstruction from a highway. The definition of a highway under the Highway Development and Protection Act includes the ditch on either side of the highway. Costs include fire department fees, as their attendance is necessary to ensure the removal of debris from the highway and ditches. Pursuant to Section 51 (1,2 and 3), this is a cost that the province is entitled to recover from the responsible party. In addition to this express statutory right, the province is also entitled to the same compensation in common law. In the Supreme Court of Canada ruling Ontario (Attorney General) v. Fatehi (1984) 2 SCR 536, the court specifically found that a province could recover from the negligent party the cost of:

  • a fire department attending the scene of an accident,

  • highway cleanup at the scene and

  • the removal of debris.
     

06.

I DID NOTHING WRONG. WHY DO I HAVE TO PAY?

You must be legally liable, in whole or in part, to be responsible for the damages. Liability is determined using common law principles based on the information we have. If you have information that is additional or different from that reported, contact Risk & Recovery Inc. (Edmonton 780 484-9365 or Toll Free 1-888 833-3233), and ask to speak to a Subrogation Specialist.

07.

I AM THE VEHICLE OWNER NOT THE DRIVER. WHY DO I HAVE TO PAY?

In Alberta, the vehicle owner is vicariously responsible for anyone who drives their vehicle with their permission, direct or implied.

I AM THE DRIVER, NOT THE VEHICLE OWNER. WHY DO I HAVE TO PAY?

If the driver is responsible for the automobile accident, they are also legally liable for the costs and damages incurred.

08.

I AM THE DRIVER. I DID NOT REQUEST THE FIRE DEPARTMENT TO ATTEND, WHY SHOULD I HAVE TO PAY?

Regardless of how the emergency services were notified of the incident, (e.g. Police Department, individual involved in the incident, witness, or passerby) the Province has a Statutory duty to maintain the Provincial Highways and ensure they are safe. Further there is a Common Law duty to the public to care for their safety. This responsibility has been delegated to the Municipal Fire Departments. Accordingly, if they receive a report of an incident, the Fire Department must respond in a reasonable and timely manner.

09.

WHY WERE SO MANY UNITS SENT?

The Fire Department’s response must be reasonable based on the information provided. Accordingly based on that information and the fire departments experience and protocol, they will dispatch enough equipment to deal with the situation as reported.

10.

IF MY INSURANCE COMPANY PAYS, WILL THAT AFFECT MY PREMIUMS?

This is a question for the owner to ask their insurance broker or their insurance company’s representative.

11.

WHAT HAPPENS IF I DO NOT PAY?

If we are unable to come to an agreement, then we need to consider some other avenues of dispute resolution:

  • Mediation

  • Arbitration

  • Litigation

 

The last resort is always litigation. In those case, if the Province is successful and obtains a judgement, we will endeavour to enforce the judgment. If that is unsuccessful, the Province has the authority to suspend the liable party's driver’s licence.

12.

WILL YOU ACCEPT PAYMENTS?

Yes, payment schedules are considered on a case-by-case basis.

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