The Important Role of Independent Witnesses in Motor Vehicle Collision Lawsuits


When a crash happens its not unusual for the parties involved to have different versions of who is to blame.  When this occurs determining who will be found at fault in a subsequent lawsuit can be a difficult task.  When there are impartial and independent witnesses, however, the task of picking between differing versions can become easier.  This was demonstrated in reasons for judgement released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry.
In today’s case (Hough v. Dyck) the Parties were involved in a 2007 motor vehicle collision.  The Plaintiff’s pick up truck was rear-ended by the Defendant’s car.  The Plaintiff sued alleging the Defendant was at fault for driving carelessly.  The Defendant disagreed arguing that the Plaintiff cut in front of him and “abruptly stopped” leaving him without adequate time and space to safely bring his vehicle to a halt.
An independent witness to the collision came forward and provided the Court with her account as to what occurred.  She verified the Defendant’s evidence that the Plaintiff cut the Defendant off and then slammed on his brakes.  Ultimately the Court preferred the Defendant’s version of events and dismissed the lawsuit.  In doing so Madam Justice Baker provided the following comments:
[18] (The independent witness) Ms. Maynes testified that near the bottom of the hill, as traffic was approaching 92nd Avenue, she saw Mr. Hough’s vehicle pull across the double solid centre lines into the northbound lane, pass Mr. Dyck’s vehicle, swerve back into the southbound lane and then slam on its brakes.  She saw the brake lights of Mr. Dyck’s vehicle come on and saw the collision.  She said it was a minor impact, because of the relatively slow speed of travel due to heavy traffic….

[21]        I find Mr. Dyck to be a credible witness and I accept his testimony.  I consider Mr. Hough’s testimony to be inaccurate and unreliable.   The testimony of Ms. Maynes supports Mr. Dyck’s testimony that Mr. Hough caused the accident by first passing Mr. Dyck’s vehicle when passing was prohibited, as evidenced by a solid double centre line and then abruptly pulling back into Mr. Dyck’s lane and equally abruptly slamming on his brakes, for no good reason, and when it was foreseeable that a collision would result.  In doing so, he was negligent, and his negligence was the sole cause of the accident.

[22]        I am not persuaded that anything done or omitted to be done by Mr. Dyck caused or contributed to the accident.  He was cut off when Mr. Hough pulled back into his lane of travel and then stopped abruptly.

[23]        It follows that the action must be dismissed.  Mr. Dyck shall have his costs, payable by Mr. Hough, on Scale B.

The lesson motorist should take from this case is that independent witnesses can be vital to the success or failure of a personal injury lawsuit where fault is contested.  Following a collision, if possible, it is a good idea to take down the names and contact information of witnesses to the event prior to leaving the scene of the crash.

bc injury law, fault, Hough v. Dyck, independent witnesses, liability, madam justice baker, rear end collisions, rear end crashes

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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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