BC Supreme Court Discusses Law of Left Hand Turn Intersection Crashes


Perhaps no type of accident has received more judicial attention than intersection collisions between left hand turning motorists and through drivers.  Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court discussing the law of fault when such a collision occurs on a green light.
In today’s case (Basi v. Buttar) the Plaintiff was involved in a January, 2007 car crash in Surrey, BC.  She was travelling through an intersection when the Defendant turned in front of her as she was just about to enter the intersection.  The Defendant said that the Plaintiff was at fault because she was speeding. Mr. Justice Brown found the Defendant 100% at fault for the collision and in doing so provided the following succinct summary and application of the law:

[24] Accidents such as this are a common occurrence. Section 174 of the Motor Vehicle Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 318 [the Act] imposes duties both on the driver proceeding through the intersection (the “through driver”) and on the driver intending to turn left. The driver turning left must yield to the through driver where the through driver is in the intersection or constitutes an immediate hazard to the driver turning left. If the through driver does not constitute an immediate hazard, that is, if it is safe to turn left, then the through driver must yield the right of way to the driver turning left provided that the driver turning left has signalled his intention to turn left per s. 172 of the Act.

[25] The main question in this case is whether the plaintiff’s vehicle constituted an immediate hazard to Mr. Sarai when he started his turn, or whether the plaintiff’s car was far enough away from the intersection so that Mr. Sarai could safely turn left. If the former, the defendant should have yielded; if the latter, the plaintiff should have yielded. However, even if one of the parties has the right of way, that does not discharge them from a duty to exercise reasonable care in the circumstances.

[26] Mr. Sarai managed to clear the intersection in sufficient time to avoid a collision; however I accept the evidence of the plaintiff and Mr. Lavergne that the plaintiff’s car and Mr. Sarai’s van nearly collided. And while, as stated, I have some reservations about Mr. Laverne’s impartiality, I have no reason to conclude that he fabricated his evidence about how close the plaintiff was to the intersection when Mr. Sarai made his turn. I find that the plaintiff was too close to the intersection for Mr. Sarai to safely complete his turn and that he should have yielded to the plaintiff in accordance with s. 174 of the Act.

[27] While counsel for the defendant urged me to find that the plaintiff was driving too fast for the slippery road conditions, the fact remains that Mr. Sarai himself confirmed that the plaintiff was driving her vehicle in a controlled and safe fashion as she approached the intersection. Of course, he also testified, in effect, that she did not constitute an immediate hazard to him as she approached, so this evidence about the plaintiff’s safe driving is also somewhat consistent with his position that he could turn safely.

[28] The strongest argument in favour of the defendant comes from the fact that the plaintiff could not control her car and Mr. Lavergne’s evidence that Mr. Sarai made his turn slowly—had he moved more quickly, the plaintiff could have travelled straight through the intersection. This could suggest that the plaintiff may have been driving too fast or over-reacted.

[29] However, I am more persuaded by the evidence that Mr. Sarai started his turn when the plaintiff was too close to the intersection. She attempted to brake and turn to the left to avoid a collision with Mr. Sarai’s van. She lost control because of the slippery road conditions. I cannot conclude on the balance of probabilities that she drove too fast for the conditions. The only evidence of that comes from Mr. Buttar, who I find had limited opportunity to observe. I prefer the evidence of the plaintiff, Mr. Lavergne and Mr. Sarai in this regard. Therefore, I find the defendant Mr. Sarai 100% responsible for the accident for failing to yield to the plaintiff’s approaching vehicle, which constituted an immediate hazard as he commenced his left turn.

The Court went on to award the Plaintiff just over $42,000 in total damages for her injuries.  In assessing her non-pecuniary damages at $30,000 Mr. Justice Brown summarized her injuries and their effect on her life as follows:

[67] This is a moderate soft tissue injury with symptoms prolonged beyond the usual period expected possibly on account of the plaintiff’s clinical history of complaints in the same areas as noted before the accident. However, she was asymptomatic pre-accident, except for occasional headaches. She has steadily improved since the accident. She returned to her to job at the bank by March 19, 2007, a little over two months after the accident, and to the CRS not long after that. She has returned to full time work, with her work hours totalling over 60 hours per week. Recreational activities such as skiing and running have been negatively impacted, and her homemaking capacity has been diminished. She has made a near full recovery from her injuries, and the accepted medical evidence indicates the plaintiff will see a full recovery in the future, though she may suffer minor flare-ups…

[70] The cases cited by counsel encompass the appropriate range of damages for a case of this kind, but of course, each case involves its own factors, and therefore requires an individual assessment.

[71] Based on all the evidence before me, I award $30,000 to the plaintiff for non-pecuniary damages

Basi v. Buttar, fault, icbc injury claims, intersection crashes, left hand turn car crashes, liability, Mr. Justice Brown, non-pecuniary damages

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ERIK
MAGRAKEN

Personal Injury Lawyer

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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