Could You Be At Fault For A Crash If You Have the Right of Way?

The short answer is yes, and reasons for judgment were released by the BC Supreme Court (Bain v. Shafron) today discussing this legal principle.
In today’s case a collision occurred over 8 years ago in Vancouver, BC.  (the reasons why the case took over 8 years to get to trial are discussed in the judgment).  The Defendant entered an intersection on a green light.  While there she yielded to a bus that was trying to make a left hand turn.  By the time the bus cleared the intersection the Defendant’s light turned red.  The Plaintiff, then approaching from the Defendant’s right, entered the intersection on a green light and a collision occurred.   
Despite entering on a green light Madam Justice Fisher of the BC Supreme Court found the Plaintiff to be 100% responsible for this collision and dismissed the claim.
In doing so she discussed the law relating to collisions and the duties of driver’s with the right of way as follows:

[11]            As I explain below, I have found that Ms. Shafron lawfully entered the intersection of Oak and Broadway.  Accordingly, she had a statutory right of way under s. 127(1)(a)(iii) of the Motor Vehicle Act and Mr. Bain was obligated to yield to her right of way when he entered the intersection:

127 (1) When a green light alone is exhibited at an intersection by a traffic control signal,

(a)        the driver of a vehicle facing the green light

(iii)       must yield the right of way to vehicles lawfully in the intersection at the time the green light became exhibited …

[12]            Ms. Shafron as the driver of the vehicle with the right of way was the dominant driver and Mr. Bain was the servient driver.  A dominant driver does not lose that position by unreasonable actions but the existence of a right of way does not entitle the dominant driver to disregard an apparent danger: Atchison v. Kummetz, (1995), 59 B.C.A.C. 81 at para. 19, Abbott Estate v. Toronto Transportation Commission, [1935] S.C.R. 671.  There is a duty of care to avoid a collision when the dominant driver sees or ought to see that the other driver is not yielding the right of way: Bedwell v. McGill, 2008 BCCA 6.  In order for the plaintiff in this case to prove that the defendant was negligent, Mr. Bain must establish that Ms. Shafron should have become aware that he was not yielding and that she had a sufficient opportunity to avoid the collision.  Any doubts should not be resolved in favour of the plaintiff: Walker v. Brownlee, [1952] D.L.R. 450 (S.C.C.) at para. 50, Brewster (Guardian ad litem of) v. Swain, 2007 BCCA 347, Kerr (Litigation Guardian of) v. Creighton, 2008 BCCA 75.

[13]            The standard of care of a driver is not one of perfection, but whether the driver acted in a manner which an ordinarily prudent person would act: see Hadden v. Lynch, 2008 BCSC 295 at para. 69 and the cases cited therein.

The principles summarized by Madam Justice Fisher are something all BC motorists should be familiar with.  Just because you have a green light (or otherwise have the right of way) does not necessarily mean you are not at fault for a collision.  If you are a ‘dominant driver’ and can reasonably avoid a collision where someone is not yielding to your right of way you may be negligent and liable for the crash.

Bain v. Shafron, fault, ICBC claims, liability, vancouver icbc claims lawyer

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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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