Rear-Ended Motorist Found Partly At Fault For Collision

As previously discussed, occasionally a motorist who is rear-ended by another can be found liable for the collision.  Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, with such a result.

In the recent case (Bay v. Woollard) the Plaintiff struck a vehicle that had, moments prior, struck another vehicle.  The middle motorist in the three car pile up was found 25% at fault for the second collision despite being rear-ended.  The primary reason for this finding was the Defendant’s failing to brake before the first crash thus depriving the Plaintiff of full notice of the imminent hazard.  In reaching a 75/25 split for the impact Mr. Justice Harvey provided the following reasons:

[52]         As such, I conclude that the Bradley vehicle hit the Woollard vehicle before the Bay vehicle hit the Bradley vehicle.

[53]         In my view, Ms. Bradley’s driving, that is her failing to sharply apply her brakes thus giving warning to the vehicle behind her of her intention to stop, coupled with striking the vehicle in front of her thus creating a hazard to drivers following, was a contributing factor to the accident with the Bay vehicle.

[54]         Mr. Bay was admittedly negligent. His counsel concedes such in that he ran into the rear of the vehicle which was there to be seen and was seen by him. Even were I to conclude the roadways were icy, which I do not as such was contrary to the evidence of the two witnesses whose evidence I prefer, that does not excuse Mr. Bay’s driving.

[55]         While a rear-end collision does not necessarily lead to the result that the following driver was negligent, in these circumstances as testified to by Mr. Bay, he clearly was. In his evidence, he stated he first noticed the Bradley vehicle (he says completely at a stop) when he was 150 to 200 feet away. He later expanded that distance in his cross-examination. He failed to see flashing lights which I find were readily apparent and warned of the obvious hazard ahead. Mr. Bay was oblivious to that…

[57]         Here there is significant evidence of negligence on the part of Mr. Bay. He had ample time to react and stop in order to avoid colliding with the Bradley vehicle. He had ample warning of the impending dangerous situation unfolding before him.

[58]         Were it an issue before me, Ms. Bradley would be 100% responsible for the collision between her vehicle and Mr. Woollard’s (in the absence of a further strike by Mr. Bay). However, the same logic does not apply to the collision between Mr. Bay and Ms. Bradley.

[59]         The negligent actions of both Ms. Bradley and the plaintiff contributed to the second impact and the plaintiff’s damages. The negligence of the plaintiff was, however, the substantial contributing factor.

[60]         Ms. Bradley was negligent by failing to brake thus evidencing her intention to bring her vehicle to a stop or significantly slow it prior to impact with the Woollard vehicle. That is to be contrasted with the negligence of the plaintiff Mr. Bay who for a significant period of time, a matter of seconds according to Mr. Woollard, travelled over a distance by his own reckoning of 150 to 200 feet (at a minimum) towards a car he says stopped and struck it in the rear.

[61]         Prior to the accident, the flashing lights gave warning of an impending hazard. Mr. Bay never saw them or responded appropriately.

[63]         Given my conclusions set out above, as between the plaintiff Mr. Bay and the defendant Ms. Bradley I apportion liability 75% to the plaintiff and 25% to the defendant. The action against Mr. Woollard is dismissed.

Bay v. Woolard, bc injury law, Mr. Justice Harvey, rear end collisions

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ERIK
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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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