The principal operator, or primary driver, is the person who will be driving the car listed on the policy the majority of the time. Though this will often be the owner of the vehicle, this is not always the case.
A principal operator is declared at the time of renewal of your ICBC policy of insurance. Some people list a parent as the principal operator, when in fact it will be their teenager that will be the primary operator. Others will not list inexperienced drivers, or drivers with a history of at-fault claims, as the primary operator. This is done in an attempt to secure lower premiums. If, however, in the event of a motor vehicle accident, ICBC is of the belief that the principal operator was falsely declared, you can be held in breach of your policy.
This will have the effect of you receiving no accident benefits, and, if you are at fault, being held personally liable for any settlement amounts or court judgment against you. For an example of the serious repercussions that can occur by falsely declaring who the principal operator will be, please see the case of Booth v. ICBC, where the Court ruled that a woman was in breach of her insurance for falsely declaring that she would in fact be the primary driver, when it actuality it was her son. As such, she was forced to repay ICBC for an ICBC settlement amount paid out to the injured party.
If you are not at fault for the accident, and ICBC states that you are in breach of your insurance policy, then you would receive no accident benefits through them, but would still have the right to sue the other party for damages for pain and suffering, economic loss, and other damages.
If during the term of the original policy the name of the principal operator changes, you would need to bring this to the attention of your Autoplan broker at the time of your next renewal. You are not required to do so during the term of the original policy.
If there is no principal operator, then you would need to declare this. Your vehicle will then be rated at the base rate on the claim-rated scale and, as such, you will not be entitled to any discount or surcharge, as ICBC will not be able to form a proper assessment of crash risk.