ICBC Law

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Motorist Found Fully At Fault Following Collision With Moose at Highway Speed

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing liability following a collision with a moose in Northern BC.

In today’s case (Knight v. Knight) the Defendant collided with a moose causing catastrophic and disabling injuries to his spouse who was a passenger in the vehicle.  The Defendant argued he was not at fault as he was not speeding and had little time to react.  Mr. Justice Sewell rejected this argument and found him fully at fault.  In doing so the Court adopted ICBC’s “Learn to Drive Smart” manual as being relevant in assessing the standard of care and provided the following reasons:

[44]         In this case, Mr. Knight’s evidence is that he was driving at the posted speed limit, was looking straight ahead while driving because of the oncoming headlights of the Thomas vehicle and took no action when he noticed those headlights black out. Mr. Knight was aware that there were signs warning of the risk of moose being present on the highway and had on an earlier occasion seen a moose on Highway 37, albeit closer to Terrace. He was also aware that the risk of a moose being present was increased at dusk and that moose were more likely to be present during the rutting season, which includes October. There would be a minimal burden imposed on the defendant from driving more slowly. The only result of doing so would have been that he would have arrived at his destination a few minutes later than he would have if he was driving at the posted speed. There can be no doubt that a reasonable person living in Northern British Columbia would have been aware of the grave consequences of colliding with a moose at highway speed.

[45]         With respect to the standard of care, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia’s Learn to Drive Smart Manual states at page 129:

Strategies: watching for animals

To help prevent a collision with an animal:

Scan the sides of the roadway ahead for animals

Watch for animal crossing signs when driving through farming or wooded areas. Slow down in these areas.

Be extra cautious at dusk and dawn. This is when animals move around to feed, and it is also harder for you to see them at these times.

Look for sudden, unusual spots of light on the roadway at night. This may be the reflection of your headlights off an animal’s eyes.

Remember that wild animals often move in herds. If you see one animal, there may be more.

[46]         I consider that the recommendations contained in the Driver’s Manual to be relevant in determining whether Mr. Knight met the required standard of care in this case.

[47]         In his evidence and examination for discovery, Mr. Knight admitted that he took none of the precautions recommended above. I am aware that I must be cautious about admissions made by Mr. Knight in this case given the fact that his wife is the plaintiff and that he therefore stands to benefit from an award in her favour. However, taking into account the whole of his evidence, his demeanor when giving evidence and the direct manner in which he answered questions put to him, I have no reason to believe that he was attempting to deceive me. Mr. Thomas’ estimate of the speed of the Knight vehicle was consistent with Mr. Knight’s evidence.

[48]         I conclude that Mr. Knight was operating his vehicle in a negligent manner on the night of October 22, 2008. I find that given the time of the year and the time of day and the presence of moose warnings signs on Highway 37, Mr. Knight was negligent in failing to slow his vehicle and in failing to take any extra precautions to keep a look out for the presence of moose on or near the highway.

[49]         I also find that he was negligent when he failed to immediately slow his vehicle when he observed something crossing in front of the headlights of Mr. Thomas’s oncoming truck.

[50]         In my view a reasonable person in Mr. Knight’s position would have immediately taken steps to slow his vehicle when he saw the headlights of the oncoming vehicle black out. I find that Mr. Knight was aware that something was obstructing the lights of the oncoming vehicle. Given the other factors I have already outlined – the warning that moose might be present on the highway, the time of day, and the fact that October is in the rutting season when moose are more likely to be present – I conclude that a reasonable driver would have realized that there was a material risk that it was an animal that was obstructing the lights and would immediately have applied his brakes and slowed his vehicle until he had ascertained what was causing the obstruction. I find that it was negligent of Mr. Knight not do so.

 

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