Tag: bc injury law

More on ICBC Claims and Hit and Run Lawsuits: The Notice Requirement

As I’ve previously written, section 24 of the BC Insurance (Vehicle) Act gives the victims of Hit and Run accidents the right to sue ICBC directly in certain circumstances.  There are exceptions and limitations to this right and one such limitation is that a Plaintiff has to give proper notice to ICBC that they intend to claim under section 24 otherwise their right to sue ICBC can be taken away.  Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, dealing with this area of law.
In today’s case (Mudrie v. Grove) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2007 rear-end collision.  After the crash the Plaintiff and the driver of the other vehicle exchanged their respective information.  The other driver identified himself as “Donald Grove“.   About a year after the crash the Plaintiff conducted a “pre-court vehicle plate search“.  The search gave rise to information which suggested that “Grove” may have provided inaccurate information about his identity.
The Plaintiff started a lawsuit naming not only Donald Grove but also ICBC as a Defendant under section 24 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act.  ICBC was named in the event that the identify of the true driver was unknown.  ICBC brought a motion to dismiss the lawsuit against them arguing that in order to sue under section 24 a Plaintiff must provide written notice to ICBC within 6 months after the accident and that the Plaintiff failed to comply with this requirement.  Mr. Justice Saunders agreed and dismissed the lawsyit against ICBC.  In doing so the Court noted as follows:
[43] I conclude on the evidence that the plaintiff’s obligation to provide written notice to ICBC under s. 24(2) did not arise at the time of the accident. However, as I have found, the negative vehicle plate search results reported on June 5, 2008 must have led – quite reasonably – to the plaintiff apprehending the potential for an unidentified driver claim; otherwise, there is no explanation for the writ having been issued with pseudonymous defendants. In the words of the Supreme Court of Canada in Peixeiro, at that point, or very shortly thereafter, the plaintiff could reasonably have discovered that he had a cause of action against ICBC. I therefore find the plaintiff did have that obligation to notify ICBC as soon as reasonably practicable, within days of June 5, 2008.

[44]         The plaintiff argues that constructive notice of the claim was given thereafter on September 4, 2008, when ICBC was contacted to determine if it had any information regarding Mr. Grove. In my view, even if I could overlook the statutory requirement that notice be in writing, this contact was nowhere close to being sufficient to discharge the plaintiff’s obligation. There is no evidence of any indication having been given to ICBC that an unidentified driver claim might be pursued.

[45]         The only notice, written or otherwise, given ICBC in this case was the writ and statement of claim. I see nothing in the statute which precludes the pleadings themselves serving as the required notice under ss. 24(2). The purpose of the notice provision is to provide ICBC with sufficient opportunity to make its own investigation of the other driver’s or owner’s identity:  Stelmock v. I.C.B.C. (1982), 42 B.C.L.R. 145 (S.C.) at para. 10; Goltzman v. McKenzie (1989), 36 B.C.L.R. (2d) 228 (C.A.). Successful identification of the driver or owner will lead to a tort claim, relieving ICBC from direct liability. If those persons are insured by ICBC, it may eventually have to make an indemnity payment on its assureds’ behalf, but may possibly then have the potential of recouping some of its loss through adjustments to those assureds’ future premiums. In the case of an out-of-province driver, ICBC may of course avoid liability altogether. Given the potential for fraud in cases of alleged hit-and-run accidents, notice to ICBC will also enable it to investigate the circumstances of the reported accident to determine if the plaintiff’s claim has merit:  Epp v. Harden Estate (1988), 24 B.C.L.R (2d) 89, 31 C.C.L.I. 229 (B.C.S.C.). These legislative purposes may be fulfilled through ICBC receiving details of an accident through a writ, as opposed to discrete advance notification that a claim will be made. And in my view the writ with its attached statement of claim, in the present case, disclosed sufficient detail that service on ICBC alone would have met the notice requirement, if it had been done in a timely manner.

[46]         This brings us to the real question in this case: whether ICBC received notification of the claim, through the writ, within the time parameters given in the statute. The writ was not served until April 2009, ten months after the negative vehicle plate search. No explanation for this delay has been offered.

[47]         In respect of interpreting the notice requirement, the plaintiff argues that the legislative purpose behind the requirement is the same as that which lies behind the two-month notice requirement to municipalities under s. 286 of the Local Government Act, R.S.B.C. 1996 c. 323: the prevention of prejudice to the defence of a government body. It is argued that this court should direct its inquiry into whether ICBC has been prejudiced by the late notification; the logic of that argument is that ICBC cannot be presumed to have been prejudiced, when the trail left by “Mr. Grove” would already have gone cold by the time the plaintiff ought to have realized this was an unidentified driver case. The notice provisions of the two statutes are, however, entirely different. Under the Local Government Act, there is a blanket requirement that notice of claims falling within the ambit of s. 286 be delivered within two months, but subsection (3) specifically provides that the failure to give notice, or sufficient notice, is not a bar to maintaining an action if the court believes (a) there was reasonable excuse, and (b) the municipality has suffered no prejudice. In contrast, under the Insurance (Vehicle) Act’s s.24, the obligation is to give notice as soon as reasonably practicable, and in any event – meaning, whether reasonably practicable or not – within six months.

[48]         If the prevention of prejudice could be said to be the dominant purpose of the notice requirement, it would appear that the legislature has either deemed there to be prejudice after six months has elapsed, or has otherwise determined, as a matter of policy, that ICBC’s exposure to such claims ought to be capped at that point. To subject that provision to an overarching, implied test involving the finding of real prejudice would be tantamount to rewriting the statute. The most that could be said is that a consideration of prejudice might, in certain circumstances, be implied by the qualifier “reasonably”. But even so, that cannot assist the plaintiff in the present case, when notice was not given to ICBC until long after the six-month period had lapsed.

[49]         ICBC was not notified of this claim within six months of when the plaintiff could reasonably have discovered that he had a cause of action against ICBC. The claim against ICBC is therefore dismissed. The parties are at liberty to make written submissions as to costs.

New Rules of Court Get First Judicial Interpretation: The Transitional Rule

I have volunteered to keep an eye on the New BC Supreme Court Rules and write about decisions interpreting and applying these.  Today the first judgement considering the New Rules has come to my attention.  Today’s case dealt with Rule 24, the transitional rule.
In today’s case (Easton v. Cooper) the Plaintiff was involved in 3 motor vehicle collisions.  The Plaintiff sued for damages for each crash.  The lawsuits were started under the old Rules of Court but were set to proceed to trial in November, 2010 (some 5 months after the New Rules came into force).  The lawsuits were all started under Rule 68 of the old rules which required parties to exchange summaries of the evidence they expect their witnesses to give at trial.  The Plaintiff did not produce statements in compliance with this requirement.
The Defendant brought a motion to force  the Plaintiff to provide this evidence.  The Plaintiff opposed arguing that she no longer needs to exchange these statements because the trial will proceed under the new rules.  Mr. Justice Voith sided with the Defendants and ordered that the Plaintiff provide summaries of evidence as required under the old rules.  In reaching this conclusion the Court had the first opportunity that I’m aware of to consider section 24 of the New Rules of Court (the section dealing with parties obligations in lawsuits started under the old rules but that are ongoing aftger the New Rules came into force).  Mr. Justice Voith provided the following interpretation of this section:

[4]             Rule 24-1(14) of the New Rules provides:

(14)      If a step in a proceeding is taken before July 1, 2010, the former Supreme Court Rules apply to any right or obligation arising out of or relating to that step if and to the extent that that right or obligation is to have effect before September 1, 2010.

[5]             The interpretation of Rule 24-1(14) turns on both the meaning of “step in a proceeding” as well as the time period that is book-ended by the two dates within the provision…

[13]         Based on the foregoing authorities, within the “Rules context”, a “step” means a formal step expressly permitted or required by the Rules.

[14]         Rule 24-1(14) specifically focuses on a narrow window of time. It addresses instances where a step undertaken prior to July 1, 2010 gives rise to an obligation that is required to be satisfied prior to September 1, 2010. By way of example, the “step” of delivering a demand for discovery of documents created a right on the part of the initiating party and a concomitant obligation on the part of the recipient of the demand to comply with the time frames and substantive requirements of the former Rules. So long as the time frame for that obligation ends before September 1, 2010 the response or action is governed under the former Rules.

[15]         In this case Rule 24-1(14) is not engaged.

[16]         Rule 68(31) of the former Rules provided:

Witnesses

(31)      Within 90 days after the close of pleadings or within 90 days after the action becomes an expedited action, whichever is later, each party to an expedited action must deliver to each other party

(a)        a list, in Form 141, of the witnesses that the party delivering the list proposes to call at the trial of the expedited action, which list must

(i)    include the party delivering the list, if that party intends to give evidence at trial, and

(ii)    exclude any expert witnesses referred to in subrule (33), and

(b)        for each of the witnesses included in the list, a written summary of the evidence that the party believes that witness will give at trial.

[17]         In each of the three actions commence by Ms. Easton, the 90 day period provided for by the former Rule 68(31), as well as the obligation or formal step created by that Rule, had expired well before July 1, 2010. The application of Rule 24-1(14) simply does not come into play. The fact that the ultimate trial of these various actions will post-date September 1, 2010, is of no moment and does not detract from the obligation to adhere to the formal requirements established by the earlier Rules…

[21] The plaintiff is directed to provide proper witness statements to counsel for the defendants within 21 days of the date that these Reasons for Judgment are issued.

In addition to the usual variety of topics I cover on this blog I will continue to post about the new Rules of Court.  If anyone is aware of any recent cases worth noting here please don’t hesitate to contact me.

How Long is Too Long for an ICBC Claim to go to Trial?


As I’ve previously written, ICBC and other personal injury claims can take a long time prior to settlement or trial.  This is particularly true in cases involving serious injuries where the long term prognosis remains unknown for  a number of years.  As I explained in this video, it is difficult to value a claim until the prognosis is known and it could be risky to settle a claim before this.
Appreciating that injury claims can take a long time, how long is too long?  Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, addressing this issue.
In this week’s case (Hullenaar v. Wells) the Plaintiff was allegedly injured in an assault in 1997.  He claimed two cars being driven by the defendants boxed him in and then one of the defendants “struck him in the face with a stick causing damage” which led to a serious eye injury.
The Plaintiff sued the alleged assailants and ICBC within the time set out in the Limitation Act.  The personal injury lawsuit dragged on for years.  ICBC grew tired of the matter and brought a court application to dismiss the claim for want of prosecution.  Master Caldwell granted the application and dismissed the lawsuit.  In doing so the Court provided the following comments:

[16]         Once inordinate and inexcusable delay is found, a rebuttable presumption of prejudice to the defendants arises; see Tundra Helicopters. None of the evidence presented to me rebutted that presumption.

[17]         There is some evidence that the plaintiff and the defendant Flynn were examined for discovery in 2002 and 2003 respectively; minimal if any examination of the defendant Wells has occurred. None of the transcripts of the discovery were produced.

[18]         This is a case which will depend largely on the evidence of the parties who were present at the time of the event. The evidence at trial will be the13 – 15 year old recollection evidence of witnesses who had spent a significant part of the evening drinking alcohol at private parties and commercial bars.

[19]         In my view the delay of 13 years, which will be almost 15 years by the time of trial, has prejudiced and will continue to prejudice the defendants in their ability to present a full and proper defence.

[20]         This is an unfortunate case. The plaintiff appears to have suffered significant injury. It is hard to imagine why the matter was not moved forward with anything approaching reasonable speed, however the plaintiff alone is responsible for the delay. Based upon the evidence presented, the interests of justice do not mitigate in favour of allowing the plaintiff to continue his action, rather they favour the dismissal sought by the defendant/third party.

[21]         The action is dismissed for want of prosecution. The applicant ICBC is entitled to its costs of this application as sought; no other party sought or is entitled to its costs.

While patience is important in the settlement of personal injury claims this case demonstrates that even with very serious injuries there is such as thing as “too long”.

BC Court of Appeal Clarifies Law of Compensation for Injuries With Multiple Causes


Very important reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Court of Appeal making it easier for a Plaintiff involved in multiple not at fault traumas to be properly compensated for their injuries.
In today’s case (Bradley v. Groves) the Plaintiff was injured in 2 BC motor vehicle collisions.  The first happened in 2006.  She was not at fault.  She suffered from various soft tissue injuries which were recovering (but not recovered) when she was involved in a second collision in 2008.  She was faultless for this crash which aggravated the soft tissue injuries from the first crash.
The Plaintiff sued the motorist in the first crash.  The trial judge found that the injuries were “indivisible” and that the two crashes “were both necessary causes of the indivisible injuries“.  The trial judge valued the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages of $30,000 for the entirety of her injury.  The Plaintiff was awarded damages for the whole amount with the trial judge stating that since the Plaintiff was not at fault for either event and since her injuries were indivisible this was the correct approach.  (you can click here to read the trial judgement)
The Defendant appealed arguing that the judge should have apportioned damages between the two crashes and only awarded the Plaintiff damages for the crash that she was suing for.  The Court of Appeal disagreed and upheld the trial judgment.  In doing so the Court clarified this important area of law which will now make it easier for not at fault Plaintiff’s injured through multiple events to be properly compensated for their loss.  The BC High Court provided the following useful reasons:

[32]        There can be no question that Athey requires joint and several liability for indivisible injuries.  Once a trial judge has concluded as a fact that an injury is indivisible, then the tortfeasors are jointly liable to the plaintiff.  They can still seek apportionment (contribution and indemnity) from each other, but absent contributory negligence, the plaintiff can claim the entire amount from any of them.

[33]        The approach to apportionment in Long v. Thiessen is therefore no longer applicable to indivisible injuries.  The reason is that Long v. Thiessen pre-supposes divisibility: Longrequires courts to take a single injury and divide it up into constituent causes or points in time, and assess damages twice; once on the day before the second tort, and once at trial.  Each defendant is responsible only for their share of the injury and the plaintiff can recover only the appropriate portion from each tortfeasor.

[34]        That approach is logically incompatible with the concept of an indivisible injury.  If an injury cannot be divided into distinct parts, then joint liability to the plaintiff cannot be apportioned either.  It is clear that tortfeasors causing or contributing to a single, indivisible injury are jointly liable to the plaintiff.  This in no way restricts the tortfeasors’ right to apportionment as between themselves under the Negligence Act, but it is a matter of indifference to the plaintiff, who may claim the entire amount from any defendant.

[35]        This is not a case of this Court overturning itself, because aspects of Long v. Thiessen were necessarily overruled by the Supreme Court of Canada’s decisions in Athey,E.D.G., and Blackwater.  Other courts have also come to this same conclusion: see Misko v. Doe, 2007 ONCA 660, 286 D.L.R. (4th) 304 at para. 17.

[36]        It may be that this represents an extension of pecuniary liability for consecutive or concurrent tortfeasors who contribute to an indivisible injury.  We do not think it can be said that the Supreme Court of Canada was unmindful of that consequence.  Moreover, apportionment legislation can potentially remedy injustice to defendants by letting them claim contribution and indemnity as against one another.

[37]        We are also unable to accept the appellant’s submission that “aggravation” and “indivisibility” are qualitatively different, and require different legal approaches.  If a trial judge finds on the facts of a particular case that subsequent tortious action has merged with prior tortious action to create an injury that is not attributable to one particular tortfeasor, then a finding of indivisibility is inevitable.  That one tort made worse what another tort created does not automatically implicate a thin or crumbling skull approach (as in Blackwater), if the injuries cannot be distinguished from one another on the facts.  Those doctrines deal with finding the plaintiff’s original position, not with apportioning liability.  The first accident remains a cause of the entire indivisible injury suffered by the plaintiff under the “but for” approach to causation endorsed by the Supreme Court of Canada in Resurfice Corp. v. Hanke, 2007 SCC 7, [2007] 1 S.C.R. 333.  As noted by McLachlin C.J.C. in that case, showing that there are multiple causes for an injury will not excuse any particular tortfeasor found to have caused an injury on a “but-for” test, as “there is more than one potential cause in virtually all litigated cases of negligence” (at para. 19).  It may be that in some cases, earlier injury and later injury to the same region of the body are divisible.  While it will lie for the trial judge to decide in the circumstances of each case, it is difficult to see how the worsening of a single injury could be divided up.

Why a Driver Isn't Always at Fault For Losing Control

If a driver loses control of their vehicle resulting in a collision causing you injury they will always be found negligent in a personal injury lawsuit, right?  Not necessarily.  Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court demonstrating this.
In today’s case (Geiger v. Schmidt) the Plaintiff sued for compensation as a result of injuries she sustained in two BC motor vehicle collisions.  In the first crash the Plaintiff was a passenger in her own vehicle.    The vehicle was travelling on Highway 99 just South of Vancouver.  The posted speed limit was 100 kmph.  The road conditions were poor due to winter weather.  The driver slowed to 70 kmph to take this into account.  The Plaintiff asked the driver to slow further and put the vehicle into four-wheel drive.  Before the driver did so the “back end of the vehicle slid.  It spun 360 degrees, collided with the median, bounced off it, went into another spin and then struck it a second time“.
The Plaintiff was injured in this crash and sued for damages.  The driver argued that he was not at fault and did nothing careless.  Mr. Justice Brown agreed and dismissed the lawsuit.  In doing so he provided the following analysis:

[44]         In my view, given the fact the defendant was attuned to the conditions he was facing and had responded to them by lowering his speed by almost one-third, the negligence question in this case comes down to deciding whether he failed to exercise all reasonable care because he failed to comply with the plaintiff’s suggestion by lowering his speed and transferring the driveline to four wheel drive before he lost control. In other words, did exercising all reasonable precautions encompass disregarding his own assessment and complying with the plaintiff’s suggestion?

[45]         In some circumstances, reasonable drivers assessing driving conditions would consider the suggestions of passengers, especially when the driver is inexperienced or less familiar with the road then the passenger. In many cases, the passenger’s recommendation will correspond with the most objectively reasonable precaution.

[46]         However, the driver is ultimately responsible for assessing the objective conditions and responding in a reasonable way. In the circumstances of this case, I find the defendant’s failure to follow the plaintiff’s suggestion to slow down and transfer to four-wheel drive is not sufficient to satisfy the plaintiff’s burden of establishing the defendant was negligent.

[47]         Further, I heard no evidence of what speed would be low enough in the conditions the defendant was facing to prevent a loss of control and the spin outs that followed. There was no evidence to show that, had the defendant switched into four-wheel drive or reduced his speed, he could have avoided the accident. A judge can take judicial notice of the natural correlation between higher speed and decreased traction; but such common knowledge does not licence a leap from that to a conclusion the defendant likely would have avoided the accident if the plaintiff had agreed with the plaintiff and lowered his speed.

[48]         This is not a case of a driver ignoring passenger pleas to slow down while driving at a speed all reasonably cautious drivers would consider unsafe in the circumstances.

[49]         The standard of care is not perfection. There is no evidence the defendant was inattentive or indifferent to road conditions. His decision to delay transferring to four wheel drive until he felt ready doing so was not unreasonable. The vehicle was equipped with snow tires. The temperature was around 4 degrees centigrade. The defendant was exercising reasonable caution by driving a full 30 kph below the posted speed limit.

[50]         As in Nason, I find insufficient evidence to show the defendant in these circumstances was negligent: at best, the weight of the evidence hangs evenly in the balance. I find the plaintiff has failed to satisfy the burden of proof and so I must dismiss the plaintiff’s claim against the defendant.

Prior to dismissing the lawsuit Mr. Justice Brown canvassed several recent authorities which address fault in collisions where a driver loses control and the case is worth reviewing in full for anyone interested in this area of law.  You can also click here to read my archived posts addressing fault for BC crashes where a driver loses control due to road conditions or other hazards.

More on ICBC Injury Claims and "Sufficient Reason" to Sue in Supreme Court

If a Plaintiff sues in Supreme Court but is awarded damages of $25,000 or less (the current financial limit of the BC Small Claims Court) the Plaintiff is not entitled to Costs unless they had “sufficient reason” for suing in the BC Supreme Court.
It is becoming reasonably well established that a Plaintiff has sufficient reason to sue in Supreme Court when the Defendant is insured with ICBC.  The reason being that the Defendant will likely be represented by a lawyer paid for by ICBC whether the claim is filed in Small Claims Court or the Supreme Court.  In these circumstances it is reasonable for a plaintiff to hire a lawyer to balance the playing field.  Since the Supreme Court allows costs orders to offset some of the legal fees our Courts have held on a few recent occasions that this creates a ‘suffient reason’ for Plaintiff’s to bring modest claims to trial in the Supreme Court.  Reasons for judgement were released today demonstrating this.
In today’s case (Zale v. Colwell) the Plaintiff was injured in a BC motor vehicle collision.  She sued in the Supreme Court.  At trial she was awarded just over $10,000 for injuries and losses.  Mr. Justice Harvey went on to award the Plaintiff costs despite the fact that the Small Claims Court could have heard the case.  The Court provided the following reasons:

[7]             None of the factors identified in Spencer have application here. The matter was not factually complex; it proceeded by judge alone; liability was admitted, obviating the need for examination for discovery by the plaintiff; the defendant resided within the jurisdiction; and, the matter did not proceed by way of summary trial.

[8]             As was noted in Spencer, the desire of the plaintiff to have counsel, alone, is not a sufficient reason, of itself, to depart from the underlying proposition stated in R. 57(10). In any event, the plaintiff was represented when the action was originally commenced in Provincial Court in 2006.

[9]             Lastly, the plaintiff says costs should be awarded owing to the fact the defendant, in effect ICBC, is an institutional litigant with rigid policies in low velocity collision claims such as this.

[10]         The defendant, while admitting liability, put the plaintiff to the strict proof of any damages whatsoever arising from the accident. That position did not change throughout the trial process. As in Spencer, I am left with the conclusion that but for the trial process, the plaintiff would be left without a remedy…

[13]         In each of the above three decisions, the primary reason for awarding the plaintiff costs, in circumstances not unlike these facing the plaintiff here, was the consideration that given the need to retain counsel to battle an institutional defendant,  a reasonable consideration in determining the forum is the matter of indemnity for the costs of counsel.

[14]         Recognizing that the onus rests on the plaintiff to demonstrate sufficient reason to have raised the matter from Provincial Court to Supreme Court, I am not persuaded that the distinguishing factor noted by the defendant, that counsel was retained (albeit not the same counsel) for the Provincial Court proceeding, is sufficient to deprive the plaintiff of the costs of the proceeding under R. 66.

[15]         I conclude that in the circumstances, it was ultimately reasonable for the plaintiff to make the decision to have the matter heard in Supreme Court.

[16]         Accordingly, the plaintiff will have her costs pursuant to R. 66(29)(b).

I should point out that today’s case relied on BC Supreme Court Rule 57(10).  This rule has now been repealed and replaced with Rule 14-1(10) which reads identically to Rule 57(10) so the precedents developed under Rule 57(10) regarding costs should continue to assist litigants under our new rules.  I should also point out that the BC Court of Appeal is expected to address the issue of sufficient reason for suing in the BC Supreme Court and provide further clarity and certainty to this area of the law.

Motorist Found 40% At Fault for Striking Jay-Walking Teenager

(Update: The below decision was upheld by the BC Court of Appeal in reasons for judgement dated August 3, 2011)

As I’ve previously written, motorists travelling with the right of way can still be found at fault for a collision in British Columbia.  If you have the right of way but know or ought to know that someone is not yielding you can be found at fault if you fail to take reasonable steps to avoid a collision in these circumstances.  This principle was well demonstrated in reasons for judgement released today by the BC Supreme Court, Kelowna Registry.
In today’s case (Walter v. Plummer) the 16 year old pedestrian Plaintiff was struck by the Defendant’s motorcycle.  The Plaintiff was jaywalking at the time of the collision.  The Plaintiff crossed in front of a stopped tractor trailer and stepped into the Defendant’s lane of travel.  This made it difficult to see the Plaintiff.  The Defendant was not speeding.  Despite this the Defendant was found partially at fault for the crash for failing to take reasonable care in all of the circumstances leading up to the crash.
The Court concluded that the Defendant was careless because she ought to have anticipated jaywalkers at the time and could have taken greater care in operating her motorcycle.  Mr. Justice Barrow provided the following useful summary in explaining why both parties were at fault for this crash:

[25] I am satisfied that Mr. Walter was crossing the street at a casual walking pace, neither particularly fast nor particularly slow. Ms. Plummer was travelling approximately one to two feet to the left of the mid-point of the southbound right turn lane. She saw Mr. Walter for the first time when he emerged from in front of the tractor-trailer truck and walked into her path of travel.

[26]         Based on Dr. Toor’s and Ms. Plummer’s evidence, I am satisfied that the point of impact between Mr. Walter and Ms. Plummer’s motorcycle was two or three feet into the right turn lane and that Mr. Walter was visible to Ms. Plummer for perhaps two more feet as he passed from in front of the tractor-trailer truck to the boundary of the right turn lane…

[41]         There are several significant features of the circumstances facing Ms. Plummer that serve to elevate the degree of care required.

[42]         The first is the reasonably foreseeable risk of jaywalking pedestrians. The defendant was aware that students frequently jaywalked across Rutland Road. Ms. White said that, in her experience, there were many jaywalking students in that area shortly after the schools are dismissed. Further, the risk was not just of any jaywalking pedestrians but of students. The fact that the foreseeable pedestrians would be students is significant because young people may take less care for their own safety than adults.

[43]         A second and related circumstance is that Ms. Plummer knew that the northbound lane was empty and that the vehicles in the left turn and through southbound lanes were stopped. The prospect of students jaywalking in that situation is higher than it would be if there was traffic moving in both directions.

[44]         Finally, and significantly, Ms. Plummer was passing a tractor-trailer unit stopped in the through lane. That truck entirely obstructed her view of the through lane in front of it. If there were pedestrians attempting to cross, it would have been apparent to her that she would not be able to see them.

[45]         All of these features serve elevate the degree of caution necessary to meet the standard of care. To proceed at 40 kilometres per hour passing a stationary truck in an area known to be frequented by jaywalking students is negligent. It is a situation in which a driver ought to have been proceeding in an “alerted” state, to borrow from the categories used in the perception-response studies.

[46]         As to Mr. Walter, he owed a duty to take reasonable care for his own safety. He breached that duty in a number of ways. He crossed other than at a marked crosswalk, and thus contrary to the statutory obligations he was under. Further, just as it should have been apparent to Ms. Plummer that she could not see crossing pedestrians, it ought to have been apparent to Mr. Walter that he could not see oncoming traffic. Finally, and most significantly, unlike Ms. Plummer who was looking where she was going, Mr. Walter did not look into the oncoming lane at all to determine if he could safely cross. His negligence is greater than that of Ms. Plummer. I apportion liability 60 percent to Mr. Walter and 40 percent to Ms. Plummer.

BC Injury Law Podcast – Pre-Existing Conditions and Your Personal Injury Claim


This is my latest in a series of podcasts discussing topics of interest in BC personal injury lawsuits.
Today I address pre-existing injuries and how these can be relevant in assessing damages in personal injury claims.
You can listen by clicking on the following link:  bc-injury-law-blog-pre-existing-conditions
If you want to learn more about pre-existing conditions and their treatment in personal injury lawsuits you can click here to access my archived posts on this topic.
UPDATE:  Since initially uploading this podcast the BC Court of Appeal released important reasons addressing injuries with multiple causes.  You can click here to read my article discussing this important case.

A Lesson in Math: Winners and Losers in Personal Injury Lawsuits


When a personal injury claim goes to trial there is a winner and a loser.  Who the winner is, however, is not always apparent by reading the Court judgement.  To know who the winner really is you have to know the behind the scenes formal settlement offers.
Reasons for judgment were released today demonstrating, yet again, the steep costs Plaintiffs can face when on the losing end of a BC personal injury lawsuit.
In today’s case (Smagh v. Bumbrah) the Plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle collision.  She sued for damages.  Before trial the Defendants made a formal settlement offer for $20,000.  The Plaintiff rejected this offer and went to trial.  After 10 days of trial a BC Jury awarded $2,200.  The Defendant was awarded ‘costs’ from the date of the formal offer onward.  (You can click here to read my summary of the costs judgement).
On the face of it the Plaintiff clearly lost because she was awarded far less by the Jury than the settlement offer.  But the full extent of the loss is far greater than the difference between $20,000 and $2,200.  The Plaintiff actually ended up owing the Defendant money for this result.  How much money?  Approximately $40,000.
You can read today’s judgment in full to see the types of items a losing litigant can end up owing the winning side to a lawsuit and to see just how quickly a ‘costs’ award can add up.
Today’s case helps illustrate an important point I’ve previously stressed.  Before a case goes to trial it is important to fully consider the potential risks and rewards including the significant toll a costs award can have.  Without knowing and weighing these risks it is very difficult to make an informed choice about whether to settle or proceed to trial.

Contact

If you would like further information or require assistance, please get in touch.

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.

“Work hard, be kind and enjoy the ride!”
Erik’s Philosophy

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