Tag: collision with moose

Watch Out for the Moose, Eh! Failure To Warn Leads to Liability

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Prince George Registry, addressing the duties of a motorist after colliding with an animal.
In today’s case (Ziemver v. Wheeler) a motorist struck a moose on the Alaska Highway.  It was “fully dark” at the time.  The moose lay dead or wounded when a subsequent motorist travelling in the same direction struck the animal, lost control and collided with an oncoming vehicle.
Multiple lawsuits were commenced.  The Court found that, given visibility issues, none of the motorists were responsible for striking the moose.  However, the first motorist was found liable for the subsequent collisions for failing to warn other motorists about the injured or dead moose in the roadway.  In reaching this conclusion Madam Justice Watchuk provided the following reasons:
[154]     A driver who has collided with wildlife must take reasonable steps to preclude the possibility of another vehicle colliding with that wildlife.  The actions which will constitute reasonable steps will vary depending on the circumstances.  The time available to the driver who has collided with the wildlife is an important factor to consider in assessing reasonableness. ..
[180]     Warning other motorists of the hazard that he had good reason to believe was lying on the road was a duty.  The duty arose at the time that he hit the moose.  Not utilising the available 9 minutes to fulfill that duty was a breach of his duty.  That breach caused the collisions between Mr. Walter and the moose and the Walter-Ziemer vehicles. ..

[187]     Mr. Wheeler failed to take any reasonable or entirely possible steps over the period of approximately 9 minutes before the third collision.  He did not return to the scene until a minimum of 21 minutes had passed.  I find that in these circumstances, his failure to take any steps to warn other motorists of the hazard posed by the moose carcass fell below the standard of care.

[188]     I further find that but for Mr. Wheeler’s failure to warn other motorists, the Walter-Ziemer collision would not have occurred or would have been likely to result in significantly decreased injury. 

[189]     This is not a case like Fajardo, in which the collision would have occurred even if the defendant driver had taken reasonable steps to warn other motorists (at para. 40).  Unlike in Fajardo, the hazard in this case did not take up the entire highway lane.  Further, because the weather was clear and Mr. Walter and Mr. Ziemer could see each other approaching, it is unlikely that they would have collided if they had taken evasive action to avoid the moose, which also distinguishes this collision from the accident in Fajardo. 

[190]     Most importantly, I find that both Mr. Ziemer and Mr. Walter would have been likely to avoid or lessen the impact of the collision if they had been warned that there was an approaching hazard.  I accept Mr. Walter’s evidence that he would have slowed if he had seen flashing lights which he would have understood as a warning.  I also find that Mr. Ziemer was an attentive driver and that he would have been likely to respond to a warning signal from Mr. Wheeler.  Both of these findings are supported by the persuasive expert evidence of Dr. Droll which indicated the ways in reasonable drivers could be assisted by roadside warnings of an upcoming hazard. 

[191]     In conclusion, I find that Mr. Wheeler breached his duty to warn other motorists of the hazard posed by the moose carcass, and that this caused the Walter-Ziemer collision. 

Motorist Found Fully At Fault Following Collision With Moose at Highway Speed

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing liability following a collision with a moose in Northern BC.
In today’s case (Knight v. Knight) the Defendant collided with a moose causing catastrophic and disabling injuries to his spouse who was a passenger in the vehicle.  The Defendant argued he was not at fault as he was not speeding and had little time to react.  Mr. Justice Sewell rejected this argument and found him fully at fault.  In doing so the Court adopted ICBC’s “Learn to Drive Smart” manual as being relevant in assessing the standard of care and provided the following reasons:
[44]         In this case, Mr. Knight’s evidence is that he was driving at the posted speed limit, was looking straight ahead while driving because of the oncoming headlights of the Thomas vehicle and took no action when he noticed those headlights black out. Mr. Knight was aware that there were signs warning of the risk of moose being present on the highway and had on an earlier occasion seen a moose on Highway 37, albeit closer to Terrace. He was also aware that the risk of a moose being present was increased at dusk and that moose were more likely to be present during the rutting season, which includes October. There would be a minimal burden imposed on the defendant from driving more slowly. The only result of doing so would have been that he would have arrived at his destination a few minutes later than he would have if he was driving at the posted speed. There can be no doubt that a reasonable person living in Northern British Columbia would have been aware of the grave consequences of colliding with a moose at highway speed.
[45]         With respect to the standard of care, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia’s Learn to Drive Smart Manual states at page 129:
Strategies: watching for animals
To help prevent a collision with an animal:
Scan the sides of the roadway ahead for animals
Watch for animal crossing signs when driving through farming or wooded areas. Slow down in these areas.
Be extra cautious at dusk and dawn. This is when animals move around to feed, and it is also harder for you to see them at these times.
Look for sudden, unusual spots of light on the roadway at night. This may be the reflection of your headlights off an animal’s eyes.
Remember that wild animals often move in herds. If you see one animal, there may be more.
[46]         I consider that the recommendations contained in the Driver’s Manual to be relevant in determining whether Mr. Knight met the required standard of care in this case.
[47]         In his evidence and examination for discovery, Mr. Knight admitted that he took none of the precautions recommended above. I am aware that I must be cautious about admissions made by Mr. Knight in this case given the fact that his wife is the plaintiff and that he therefore stands to benefit from an award in her favour. However, taking into account the whole of his evidence, his demeanor when giving evidence and the direct manner in which he answered questions put to him, I have no reason to believe that he was attempting to deceive me. Mr. Thomas’ estimate of the speed of the Knight vehicle was consistent with Mr. Knight’s evidence.
[48]         I conclude that Mr. Knight was operating his vehicle in a negligent manner on the night of October 22, 2008. I find that given the time of the year and the time of day and the presence of moose warnings signs on Highway 37, Mr. Knight was negligent in failing to slow his vehicle and in failing to take any extra precautions to keep a look out for the presence of moose on or near the highway.
[49]         I also find that he was negligent when he failed to immediately slow his vehicle when he observed something crossing in front of the headlights of Mr. Thomas’s oncoming truck.
[50]         In my view a reasonable person in Mr. Knight’s position would have immediately taken steps to slow his vehicle when he saw the headlights of the oncoming vehicle black out. I find that Mr. Knight was aware that something was obstructing the lights of the oncoming vehicle. Given the other factors I have already outlined – the warning that moose might be present on the highway, the time of day, and the fact that October is in the rutting season when moose are more likely to be present – I conclude that a reasonable driver would have realized that there was a material risk that it was an animal that was obstructing the lights and would immediately have applied his brakes and slowed his vehicle until he had ascertained what was causing the obstruction. I find that it was negligent of Mr. Knight not do so.
 

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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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