65/35 Fault Split Following Vehicle / Bicycle Collision

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry addressing fault for an intersection collision between a motorist and a cyclist.
Blanca and Drummond
In today’s case (Matkin v. Hogg) the Plaintiff was travelling on a bicycle Northbound on Blanca Street in Vancouver.  At the same time the Defendant was operating a vehicle travelling in the same direction.  While the Defendant was turning at a stop sign controlled intersection the Plaintiff drove past the vehicle and both collided.  The Defendant did not signal his intended turn and the Plaintiff failed to appreciate there was a stop sign at the intersection.  In finding the cyclist 65% at fault with the motorist shouldering 35% of the blame Mr. Justice Kent provided the following reasons:

[63]         Adopting a robust and pragmatic approach to the evidence and to the circumstances of the collision, I find as a fact that the following sequence of events occurred:

•           Mr. Hogg’s vehicle was parked on the eastside of the road approximately halfway down the block between 2nd Street and Drummond Drive;

•           While it was not completely dark, it was dusk and the street lights were on;

•           Mr. Hogg started his vehicle, thereby illuminating his running lights, and also turned on his headlights and checked his mirrors before pulling out onto the road;

•           When he checked his mirrors he did not see any of the cyclists further up Blanca Street;

•           He travelled north, slowed at the stop sign, likely performed a rolling stop in the absence of any visible traffic from any other direction and once in the intersection started to make a turn to the left in order to complete his intended turn-around maneuver;

•           In the meantime the plaintiff was proceeding northbound down the hill on the Blanca Street towards the intersection and towards Mr. Hogg’s car at approximately 20 km/hr;

•           She was unaware of the existence of a stop sign at the intersection and had not noticed the “stop sign ahead” sign posted further up Blanca Street;

•           Thinking there was no traffic around him, Mr. Hogg did not activate his left turn signal before starting his u-turn maneuver;

•           As she approached the intersection on her bike, the plaintiff formed the impression that the Hogg vehicle ahead of her was going to continue through the intersection in a northbound direction on Blanca Street;

•           At the time she was travelling faster than the Hogg vehicle and the distance between them was closing rapidly;

•           She did not see the stop signal, did not in fact stop or brake, but simply continued to ride over the putative stop line and into the intersection intending to travel north beside or close behind the Hogg vehicle;

•           When the Hogg vehicle started its left turn maneuver in the intersection, the plaintiff simply had no time to take any effective evasive maneuvers and her bike collided with the front left fender of the Hogg vehicle in the vicinity of the wheel well, launching her from her bike and onto the road; and

•           Mr. Hogg either did not check his mirrors at the stop sign and before commencing his turn, or did so and simply failed to see the plaintiff on her bike travelling behind him, but either way there was sufficient illumination from the diminishing daylight and the illuminated street lamps for her to have been visible to Mr. Hogg.

[64]         It follows from these findings of facts that the collision was caused by the actions of both the plaintiff and the defendant. What remains is the manner in which fault should be ascribed and allocated between the two…

[74]         In terms of assessing the relative degrees of fault of the parties, I conclude that the plaintiff’s conduct attracts more blame than that of the defendant’s. Both had similar duties of care vis-à-vis each other but the plaintiff was particularly careless of her own safety. Riding a bike at night on city streets without a light and without a helmet creates a grave risk indeed. It was also deliberate rather than accidental conduct on her part. Further, since she was behind the Hogg vehicle for some period of time before the actual collision, she had a greater opportunity to prevent the accident.

[75]         Pursuant to s. 6 of the Negligence Act the determination of degrees of fault is a question of fact. Based on the totality of the evidence and the considerations referred to above, I find as a fact that the fault for causing this accident rests 35% with the defendant and 65% with the plaintiff herself. Whether that allocation of fault to the plaintiff should be further increased (and the defendant’s liability to make good plaintiff’s loss should be further reduced) by further conduct on her part which increased the extent of loss or injury arising from the accident, e.g. the failure to wear a helmet, is a matter the parties have agreed will be determined at the trial of the damages portion of the case.

bc injury law, Cycling Collisions, Matkin v. Hogg, Mr. Justice Kent

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When not writing the BC Injury Law Blog, Erik is the managing partner at MacIsaac & Company, based in Victoria, B.C. He is also involved with combative sports regulatory issues and authors the Combat Sports Law Blog.

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