Motorist "Darting Out Into Traffic" Fully At Fault for Subsequent Collision
Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, addressing the liability of a motorist who darts into traffic causing a cyclist to lose control.
In this week’s case (Graham v. Carson) the Defendant motorist was stopped at a commercial loading zone and the “darted out into traffic too quickly” when it was unsafe to do so. The Plaintiff, who was travelling in the same direction, lost control trying to avoid a collision with the Defendant and subsequently drove his bicycle into a parked car causing injury to himself. The Defendant argued the Plaintiff was the author of his own misfortune. Mr. Justice Macintosh rejected this argument finding the Plaintiff acted reasonably in the agony of collision and that the Defendant was fully to blame. In reaching this conclusion the Court provided the following reasons:
 Having found as I have regarding the turn signal, I add that the failure to signal is not the central concern in this case. If Ms. Carson had signalled at about the same moment she pulled out and drove into the traffic, the signal would have been of little or no assistance to anyone. The main problem was that Ms. Carson’s car darted out into traffic too quickly. The traffic was proceeding south on Blanshard immediately behind or beside her car when her car had been stopped in the commercial zone moments before that. She should have waited for a safe opening in the traffic, which might have entailed waiting where she was until the light changed so as to stop the southerly flow on Blanshard before cars started south onto Blanshard from Fort Street…
 Proceeding through the green light southward on Blanshard were, first, the SUV, second, the plaintiff on his bicycle, and third, Mr. Enns in his car. The SUV, the plaintiff’s bicycle and the Enns car were thrown into disarray by the defendant driver pulling out too suddenly, immediately in front of the SUV.
 I noted above that the SUV stopped before hitting the defendant’s car, but avoiding that collision was a near thing. The SUV had to stop very quickly. Mr. Enns veered his car toward the left; that is, toward the centremost of the southbound lanes on Blanshard, in order to avoid a collision. Meanwhile, the plaintiff on his bike had a matter of seconds to decide what to do. He was conscious from past experience that he risked being rear‑ended by the Enns vehicle if he stayed his course and simply braked, hoping to stop in time to avoid hitting the SUV. Instead, he steered his bike, to the right, into what appeared as a metre‑wide opening between the stopped SUV and a car parked on Blanshard, just south of the commercial zone.
 As I noted above, Mr. Graham is an experienced cyclist, and hoping to avoid injury by driving into the space between the SUV and the parked car was not unreasonable in that dire circumstance, when there was no time and little opportunity to do anything else.
 Unfortunately, that escape route did not save the plaintiff. His elbow hit the mirror of the parked car, breaking off the mirror. That impact drove him from his bike and injured him, thus giving rise to this claim…
 My view of the evidence and my resulting findings of fact lead to my conclusion that the defendant driver is fully liable for the plaintiff’s injuries. The plaintiff was not contributorily negligent. He acted promptly and not unreasonably in a desperate situation, which was brought about entirely by Ms. Carson’s re‑entering traffic when her car should have stayed where it was until there was a safe opportunity to proceed.