Can A Motorist Be At Fault For Being Rear-Ended?
(Please not the case discussed in the below post was overturned by the BC Court of Appeal who ordered a new trial. You can read the BCCA decision by clicking here)
While unusual the answer is yes. Reasons for judgement were released today discussing this area of the law.
In today’s case (Skinner v. Guo) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2006 BC Car Crash. The Plaintiff was driving on Highway 1 when he rear-ended the Defendant’s vehicle which was stationary in the Plaintiff’s lane of travel. The Defendant did not give any evidence at trial although it appears the Defendant stopped because he struck a coyote. Given the Defendant’s lack of explanation for being stopped in a travelled portion of the roadway the Court found that he was in violation of s. 187 of the Motor Vehicle Act.
The Plaintiff argued that the Defendant was at fault for the collision for stopping his vehicle and failing to activate his emergency flashers. Mr. Justice Harvey disagreed and found the Plaintiff 100% at fault for failing to see a stationary vehicle that was there to be seen. Before dismissing the case Mr. Harvey said the following with respect to fault when a motorist rear ends another in British Columbia:
 All of the cases referred to me by counsel note that there is a high onus on a following driver, as stated in Molson v. Squamish Transfer Ltd. (1969), 7 D.L.R. (3d) 553 (B.C.S.C.). One principle to be extracted from the rear?end cases is that when one car runs into another from behind, the onus is on the driver of the rear car to show that the collision was not occasioned by his fault. However, each case must be decided upon its facts, and I have been referred to cases where substantial liability has been imposed upon the front driver and others where the following driver has been assessed one hundred percent of the claim. I do not find this case similar to the authorities referred to me by counsel for the plaintiff, which include McMillan v. Siemens,  B.C.J. No. 2546 (S.C.); Lloyd v. Fox (1991), 57 B.C.L.R. (2d) 332 (C.A.); and W.K. Enterprises Ltd. v. Stetar,  B.C.J. No. 484 (S.C.). In each of those cases the hazard created by the negligence of the driver who had stopped his vehicle was not apparent for either reasons of weather conditions or the design of the roadway until a point where the plaintiff’s vehicle was much closer than was the case here.
 Baker v. Cade,  B.C.J. No. 239 (S.C.), has facts which are most analogous to the case at bar. There, the collision involved two cars and a motorcycle. The first car stopped in the middle of a bridge, and the car immediately behind that car came to a stop as well, without activating emergency flashers. The plaintiffs were following behind on a motorcycle. The stopped vehicles were approximately 800 feet away when the plaintiff crested the bridge and had a view of what was happening. The plaintiffs were unable to stop the motorcycle and collided with the rear of the second vehicle, suffering significant injury. The role of the driver of the second vehicle in that situation is analogous to that of the defendant in this case. While Drost J. concluded that the driver of the second vehicle was negligent, he held that his negligence was not the proximate cause of the accident. I reach the same conclusion here.
 The only distinguishing factor in this case is that the accident occurred at night. However, I find as a fact that the area was well lit and the sight line of the plaintiff would have allowed him to the defendant’s stationary vehicle approximately a kilometre away. Indeed, the plaintiff says he did see the defendant’s vehicle, but that he did not determine until it was too late that it was stopped. Despite his description of the traffic, he took no evasive manoeuvres to avoid striking the rear of the defendant’s vehicle. He believes he was some 20 to 30 yards away when he slammed on the brakes.
 Accordingly, the action is dismissed.
For more on this area of the law click here to read a case summary where a motorist was found partially at fault for being rear-ended.