Can you be at Fault for a Crash if you have the Statutory Right of Way?
The short answer is yes and reasons for judgment were released today demonstrating this.
In today’s case (Karran v. Anderson) the Plaintiff was seriously injured when she was struck by the Defendant’s vehicle while she was jogging “against the light in a marked crosswalk“. As a consequence of the impact the Plaintiff “was thrown fifty-seven feet in the air and landed in the south crosswalk…She suffered an occipital hematoma, a fractured left femur, a dislocated right knee…back and neck injuries as well as extensive bruises and abrasions.”
At the time of the accident the Defendant had a green light and he was not speeding. The Plaintiff, on the other hand, was jaywalking. Nonetheless Mr. Justice Cohen of the BC Supreme Court found that the Defendant was partially at fault for this crash. How can this be? The reason is the determination of fault in BC Personal Injury Claims (with the exception of intentional torts) is governed under the common law of Negligence. A person can be found negligent even if they did not brake any statutory law during an accident. Mr. Justice Cohen summarized this principle concisely stating that ” the authorities establish that the common law duty of care exists notwithstanding statutory rights of way and that a breach of a statutory right of way merely provides evidence in support of a finding of a negligent breach of the common law duty of care”
In today’s case the court made the following findings of fact about how the collision occurred:
I find that the plaintiff jogged across Howe Street against the light in the north crosswalk in front of vehicles that were stopped in the two middle southbound lanes; that the southbound vehicles that were stopped when the plaintiff passed in front of them had the green light; that just before the plaintiff was struck by the truck she glanced to her left looking north up Howe street in the east curb lane; that there was heavy rush hour traffic; that the east curb lane on Howe street was open to southbound traffic; that some of the westbound traffic travelling on Smithe Street had failed to clear the intersection thereby preventing other westbound vehicles from entering the intersection; that the defendant’s speed reached 50 km/h; and, that the defendant braked his vehicle just prior to the collision.
The court found that the Defendant was 25% to blame for this collision because he failed “to take any steps to avoid the accident“. In coming to this conclusion Mr. Justice Cohen highlighted the following facts:
 Thus, in the case at bar the first issue to decide is whether the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff with regard to the circumstances that existed in the intersection at the time of the accident. In my opinion, he did. I find that the possibility of danger emerging was reasonably apparent such that special precautions should have been taken by the defendant: there was rush hour traffic; despite the fact that the traffic light for southbound traffic on Howe Street had turned to green, the vehicles in the middle two lanes on Howe Street immediately to the west of the defendant’s lane of travel did not proceed through the intersection; westbound traffic on Smithe Street was backed up into the intersection preventing some westbound vehicles from proceeding through the intersection; there were pedestrians in the area of the intersection; and, the defendant’s view of the intersection was blocked by the southbound vehicles that were stopped in the middle two lanes on Howe Street…
 The defendant was proceeding on a green light and thus had the right of way. However, I find that the defendant did not keep a proper lookout. He failed to observe that there were vehicles stopped in the middle two lanes on Howe Street. I find that by failing to observe that the vehicles in the middle two lanes had not proceeded on the green light, and proceeding into the intersection at 50 km/h, he acted in breach of the duty placed upon him to take special precautions in the circumstances.
 Finally, I find that the opportunity existed for the defendant to take action to avoid colliding with the plaintiff…
 The defendant accelerated from the intersection at the intersection of Howe and Robson Streets to reach 50 km/h and he maintained this speed to virtually the point of impact with the plaintiff. I agree with the plaintiff that driving at the speed limit in the east curb lane while the vehicles in the middle two lanes were stopped on a green light was not reasonable nor prudent given the traffic conditions at the intersection.
This case contains a lengthy and thorough discussion of the law regarding the duties of motorists and pedestrians in crosswalk accidents and is worth reviewing in full for anyone researching or involved in a liability case dealing with the same.
fault, intersection accidents, jaywalking, Karran v. Anderson, liability, Mr. Justice Cohen, negligence, pedestrian accidents
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