Driver 25% At Fault For Being Rear Ended Due to "Sudden Stop"

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, assessing a motorist 25% at fault for a crash despite being rear-ended.
In today’s case (Gibson v. Matthies) the Plaintiff was operating a motorcycle travelling behind the Defendant.  The Defendant brought his vehicle to a “sudden stop” prior to attempting a left hand turn.  The Plaintiff was unable to react in time and rear-ended the Defendant vehicle.  The Court found that the Plaintiff was negligent but also gave the Defendant 25% of the blame for his sudden stop.  In reaching this conclusion Mr. Justice Crawford provided the following reasons:

[174]     Therefore I accept Mr. Kramer’s evidence that the truck came to a sudden stop, and if I were to speculate, it may have been that Mr. Matthies was debating whether he was going to make a left turn in front of the oncoming traffic but decided it was safer to come to a stop, albeit quickly.

[175]     In the circumstances, Mr. Kramer, who was watching the red truck, was able to brake and evade the truck by swerving to his right and into the ditch and Mr. Matthies recalled seeing Mr. Kramer’s motorcycle beside him at that time.

[176]     Mr. Gibson, according to the evidence, had been trailing behind Mr. Kramer but closer to the centre line.

[177]     Mr. Gibson said he checked his rear-view mirror for the traffic behind him and looked up to see Mr. Matthies’ truck already stopped. He said he could not go left into the oncoming traffic, or go right, probably because Mr. Kramer had slowed because of Mr. Matthies’ truck slowing, and therefore Mr. Kramer’s motorcycle was relatively close to his right and he could not safely veer right. So he braked, the motorcycle “laid down” and the motorcycle slid into the back of Mr. Matthies’ truck. Mr. Matthies said he looked back to see Mr. Gibson’s motorcycle sliding into the rear of his truck. I credit Mr. Matthies for an extremely quick reaction, to accelerate his truck so that the motorcycle struck the rear of his truck as it was already starting to pull away and Mr. Gibson, who was catapulted from his motorcycle, somersaulted onto the roadway behind Mr. Matthies’ accelerating truck. Had Mr. Matthies not acted so promptly, Mr. Gibson may have been injured far more seriously.

[178]     Ms. Steele’s evidence to some degree confirmed Mr. Kramer’s evidence as to not seeing a turn signal and there being a discussion between Mr. Kramer and Mr. Matthies about leaving the scene of the accident.

[179]     The primary onus however, in law (and in common sense), falls on Mr. Gibson as he is the rear motor vehicle, to keep a safe distance from the vehicle ahead. In addition, I find contributing negligence of both he and Mr. Matthies, Mr. Matthies for a sudden stop and Mr. Gibson for lack of lookout. The lack of lookout has two facets; a failure to see the truck slowing and stopping suddenly; and that in turn meant Mr. Gibson continued at cruising speed while Mr. Kramer slowed, and Mr. Gibson lost his ability to veer right behind Mr. Kramer.

[180]     Both parties are in agreement in terms of applying the provisions of the Negligence Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 333, s. 1. I find that the larger burden should fall on the plaintiff and thus I conclude that Mr. Gibson is at 75% at fault for the accident and Mr. Matthies at 25%.

bc injury law, Gibson v. Matthies, Mr. Justice Crawford, rear end collisions

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ERIK
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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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