Tag: intersection accidents

BC Court of Appeal Finds Cyclist 50% at Fault for "Cycling Between Lanes"


Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Court of Appeal addressing the issue of fault for a cyclist involved in an intersection crash.
In today’s case (MacLaren v. Kucharek) the Plaintiff cyclist was injured when he was travelling through an intersection in Surrey BC when he was struck by a left hand turning vehicle approaching from the opposite direction.  At  trial the driver of the vehicle was found 100% at fault.  The vehicle operator appealed and the BC High Court overturned the trial judgement and found the cyclist 50% at fault.
The roadway the cyclist was travelling on had one marked lane but as it approached the intersection it “widens…(and) although unmarked as two lanes, there is sufficient room for two vehicles to travel abreast within the one marked lane.”  Critical to the Court’s judgement was a finding that although unmarked, the roadway had “two de facto lanes” just prior to the intersection.
It was accepted that vehicles that drove in the right of these two defacto lanes were right turning vehicles. Vehicles that intended to drive straight through the intersection stayed in the left hand portion of the wide lane.  As the cyclist approached the intersection a vehicle in front of him in his direction fo travel stopped and left a “gap in the traffic lined up behind the intersection“.  The Plaintiff passed this traffic on the right and entered the intersection (basically travelling down the centre of these two defacto lanes).  At the same time the Defendant made a left hand turn into the intersection resulting in collision.  The Defendant testified that he never saw the cyclist prior to the crash.
The driver was found at fault for failing to see the cyclist.  In finding the cyclist 50% at fault the BC Court of Appeal provide the following reasons:
The question that arises, however, is whether Mr. MacLaren should have “taken the lane”; that is, ridden behind the other traffic in the lane, rather than do what he did which was to put himself beside vehicles in that lane and to pass them on the right…

…In my view it is not so much that Mr. MacLaren was passing on the right when he was struck by the appellant, but that he was riding between what were effectively two lanes of travel before entering the Laurel Drive intersection.  In my view, s. 183(2)(c) (which required him to ride as near as practicable to the right side of the highway), did not authorize him to ride between two lanes of travel.  For Mr. MacLaren to ride between two unmarked but commonly travelled lanes immediately prior to reaching the Laurel Drive intersection was dangerous because a northbound left-turning driver would have little opportunity to see him as he cycled alongside vehicles to his left.  In my view, given the configuration of the roadway and the pattern of traffic in this case, for Mr. MacLaren to cycle alongside vehicles to his left created a danger both to himself and to the appellant.

[29] While Mr. MacLaren did the right thing by moving out of the curb lane, he should have moved in behind the vehicles travelling toward the “through” lane, not beside them.  By cycling between lanes Mr. MacLaren did not show sufficient care for his own person to avoid a finding of contributory negligence.  Taking a lane was the only way, in my view, that a bicyclist could have satisfied the mandate of s. 183(2)(c) to safely travel as near as practicable to the right of the highway…

I am of the view that the trial judge erred in failing to conclude that Mr. MacLaren, in choosing to ride in between the two travel lanes and beside the stopped pick-up rather than in the lane of travel behind it, did not take reasonable care for his own safety.  His failure to take reasonable care for his own safety was one of the causes of the accident.  Mr. MacLaren was therefore contributorily negligent.

Can you be at Fault for a Crash if you have the Statutory Right of Way?

The short answer is yes and reasons for judgment were released today demonstrating this.
In today’s case (Karran v. Anderson) the Plaintiff was seriously injured when she was struck by the Defendant’s vehicle while she was jogging “against the light in a marked crosswalk“.  As a consequence of the impact the Plaintiff “was thrown fifty-seven feet in the air and landed in the south crosswalk…She suffered an occipital hematoma, a fractured left femur, a dislocated right knee…back and neck injuries as well as extensive bruises and abrasions.”
At the time of the accident the Defendant had a green light and he was not speeding.  The Plaintiff, on the other hand, was jaywalking.  Nonetheless Mr. Justice Cohen of the BC Supreme Court found that the Defendant was partially at fault for this crash.  How can this be?  The reason is the determination of fault in BC Personal Injury Claims (with the exception of intentional torts) is governed under the common law of Negligence.  A person can be found negligent even if they did not brake any statutory law during an accident.  Mr. Justice Cohen summarized this principle concisely stating that ” the authorities establish that the common law duty of care exists notwithstanding statutory rights of way and that a breach of a statutory right of way merely provides evidence in support of a finding of a negligent breach of the common law duty of care
In today’s case the court made the following findings of fact about how the collision occurred:
I find that the plaintiff jogged across Howe Street against the light in the north crosswalk in front of vehicles that were stopped in the two middle southbound lanes; that the southbound vehicles that were stopped when the plaintiff passed in front of them had the green light; that just before the plaintiff was struck by the truck she glanced to her left looking north up Howe street in the east curb lane; that there was heavy rush hour traffic; that the east curb lane on Howe street was open to southbound traffic; that some of the westbound traffic travelling on Smithe Street had failed to clear the intersection thereby preventing other westbound vehicles from entering the intersection; that the defendant’s speed reached 50 km/h; and, that the defendant braked his vehicle just prior to the collision.
The court found that the Defendant was 25% to blame for this collision because he failed “to take any steps to avoid the accident“.  In coming to this conclusion Mr. Justice Cohen highlighted the following facts:
[65] Thus, in the case at bar the first issue to decide is whether the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff with regard to the circumstances that existed in the intersection at the time of the accident.  In my opinion, he did.  I find that the possibility of danger emerging was reasonably apparent such that special precautions should have been taken by the defendant: there was rush hour traffic; despite the fact that the traffic light for southbound traffic on Howe Street had turned to green, the vehicles in the middle two lanes on Howe Street immediately to the west of the defendant’s lane of travel did not proceed through the intersection; westbound traffic on Smithe Street was backed up into the intersection preventing some westbound vehicles from proceeding through the intersection; there were pedestrians in the area of the intersection; and, the defendant’s view of the intersection was blocked by the southbound vehicles that were stopped in the middle two lanes on Howe Street…

[67]         The defendant was proceeding on a green light and thus had the right of way.  However, I find that the defendant did not keep a proper lookout.  He failed to observe that there were vehicles stopped in the middle two lanes on Howe Street.  I find that by failing to observe that the vehicles in the middle two lanes had not proceeded on the green light, and proceeding into the intersection at 50 km/h, he acted in breach of the duty placed upon him to take special precautions in the circumstances.

[68]         Finally, I find that the opportunity existed for the defendant to take action to avoid colliding with the plaintiff…

[100] The defendant accelerated from the intersection at the intersection of Howe and Robson Streets to reach 50 km/h and he maintained this speed to virtually the point of impact with the plaintiff.  I agree with the plaintiff that driving at the speed limit in the east curb lane while the vehicles in the middle two lanes were stopped on a green light was not reasonable nor prudent given the traffic conditions at the intersection.

This case contains a lengthy and thorough discussion of the law regarding the duties of motorists and pedestrians in crosswalk accidents and is worth reviewing in full for anyone researching or involved in a liability case dealing with the same.

More ICBC Injury Claims Updates – The Kelowna Road Edition

I’m just finishing up another business trip to Kelowna BC and have been greeted by a heavy load of ICBC Injury Claims judgments released by the BC Supreme Court.  Given this volume (and being pressed for time working on the road) this Injury Claims update will be shorter on detail than usual.
4 cases worth noting were released today by the BC Supreme Court.  The first deals with the issue of fault and the others deal with damages (value of the the claims).
In the first case released today (Hynna v. Peck) the Plaintiff was injured in a car accident.  She was attempting to cross 10th Avenue, in Vancouver, BC when she was struck by a westbound vehicle near her driver’s side door.
The Plaintiff had a stop sign and was the ‘servient driver’.  The court found that the Plaintiff was careless when she left the stop sign as she tried to cross the intersection when it was not safe to do so.    Specifically the court found that the Plaintiff entered the intersection when the dominant on-coming driver posed an immediate hazard and the Plaintiff “either did not see him or saw him but failed to reasonably appreciate the threat of his approach”
The court also found that the Defendant was speeding.  The court concluded that he was at fault for this and in doing so made the following finding and analysis:

[84] I have found that Mr. Peck was speeding along West 10th at between 83.5 and 86 km/h as he approached the Intersection.  He was moving at that rapid pace when he first noticed the Hynna car stopped on Camosun Street.  The evidence demonstrates that but for Mr. Peck’s excessive speed of travel, he would have been able to take reasonable measures to avoid the accident and the accident would not then have occurred.  I also find fault with Mr. Peck for failing to keep a proper look-out.  He could not have maintained a proper look-out as he sped toward Ms. Hynna after taking the momentary second glance her way.  That is why he did not see her pull into the Intersection when he was 62 to 65 metres away.  The skid mark evidence, as interpreted by Mr. Brown, together with the testimony of Mr. Dales, establishes on balance that Mr. Peck was significantly closer to the Intersection when he finally noticed and reacted to Ms. Hynna coming into his path and slammed on his brakes.  To Mr. Peck’s mind, Ms. Hynna had suddenly appeared in front of him.  Yet the evidence shows that was not the case: she did not dart out in front of him at the last minute at a rapid rate of acceleration.  The accident here was not tantamount to a head-on collision as in Cooper.

[85] In Mr. Brown’s opinion, had Mr. Peck been doing the speed limit he could have braked to a stop in about 11.9 to 13.1 metres.  Adjusting for my finding that Mr. Peck was closer to the area of impact when Ms. Hynna entered into the Intersection than the distance estimated by Mr. Brown, I still find that, had he not been speeding and had been maintaining a proper look-out, he could have stopped in plenty of time to permit Ms. Hynna to complete her manoeuvre without mishap.

[86] I conclude that the conduct of each Mr. Peck and Ms. Hynna was negligent and combined to cause the accident.

Madam Justice Ballance apportioned 60% of the blame for this accident on the Defendant and 40% on the Plaintiff.  This case is worth reviewing in full for the court’s discussion of the law in these types of accidents.
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The second case released today by the BC Supreme Court (Lakhani v. Elliott) the issue of fault was admitted and the court had to deal with the quantum of damages.
In this case the Plaintiff was injured in a 2005 BC Car Crash.   In awarding just over $105,000 in total damages Mr. Justice Voith summarized the Plaintiff’s injuries and their effect on her life as follows:
88] In my view it is clear that Mrs. Lakhani did suffer from a series of injuries as a result of the Accident. Except for her lower back and left leg, she had never suffered from any of these difficulties prior to the Accident. There is no disagreement between the experts on the issue of causation in relation to these various injuries. While Mrs. Lakhani had experienced symptoms in her lower back and left leg these symptoms were temporarily aggravated as a result of the Accident….

[91] I find that a number of Mrs. Lakhani’s symptoms were fully resolved within one to six months of the Accident. Others have persisted, albeit it to differing degrees, to this date. While I do not accept that these symptoms have consistently been as severe as Mrs. Lakhani indicated, I do accept that they have caused her some pain and discomfort. A number of persons, including a former housekeeper, Ms. Kar, and Mrs. Lakhani’s co-worker Ms. Cousins, have given evidence about her present condition. These witnesses indicated that they have observed Mrs. Lakhani struggling with various tasks. Her husband also gave evidence about Mrs. Lakhani’s post-Accident condition. While his evidence (as with so much of the plaintiff’s case) seem to focus on Mrs. Lakhani’s limitations without any or adequate recognition about her pre-Accident condition, I do accept that the injuries associated with the Accident have increased Mrs. Lakhani’s difficulties. For example, I accept that she had headaches when she studied. I accept that sitting at a computer caused her additional difficulties. I accept that her exercise regime in the gym has changed somewhat so that she no longer exercises with light weights as she once did. I accept that she is required to ensure her workstations are properly set up to minimize difficulties with her neck and shoulder. I also accept that the difficulties Mrs. Lakhani has had in her neck, shoulder and upper back limits her ability to cope with her low back injury. A number of professional witnesses indicated that persons who have low back injuries can often adapt by undertaking more functions or tasks with their upper back and shoulders. In the case of Mrs. Lakhani, the ability to alleviate the strain or load on her low back in this manner has been obviated.

[92] It is also clear that Mrs. Lakhani has consistently sought different types of treatment to assist with her post-Accident condition. For a few months immediately after the Accident she obtained physiotherapy and massage treatments. In about April 2006 she began to see Dr. Khan regularly; she presently sees him every third week or so. Since December 2008 she has been getting cranial massage treatments. All of this is consistent with Mrs. Lakhani continuing to suffer with some of the after effects of the Accident.

[93] Mrs. Lakhani formerly enjoyed needlepoint and would periodically paint small ornaments, particularly at Christmas. She says she no longer enjoys these activities because they cause her some neck pain. I accept this evidence.

[94] As mentioned above, Mrs. Lakhani is a very avid gardener. She says the Accident has inhibited her ability to engage in this activity. I will return to this later when I deal with issues related to the cost of future care, but I find that Mrs. Lakhani’s present ability to garden is largely unchanged from that which she enjoyed prior to the Accident.

[95] I have said that Mrs. Lakhani described the sadness she felt in not being able to play with her daughter as she had hoped. I have no doubt that such limitations are very disheartening, but as I have indicated, I find that many of these limitations are a function of her pre-Accident condition. Apart from examples I have already given, Mrs. Lakhani described her inability to help her daughter learn to ride a bicycle. Such an activity, which requires running, bending and strength to balance the bicycle, would have all been extremely difficult for Mrs. Lakhani before the Accident. There are, however, some activities, such as carrying her child when she was an infant, which were likely rendered more difficult and painful as a result of the Accident.

[96] Mrs. Lakhani was a very avid reader prior to the Accident. She said she would often read for over an hour before she went to sleep. At present, she rarely reads more than 15 to 20 minutes. I accept that some of this is likely referable to the Accident. Much of it, however, seems to reflect another significant difficulty with the plaintiff’s case. I have described how carefully Mrs. Lakhani was required to balance her various commitments with her leisure time in order to protect her lower back. This leisure time was necessary to enable her to recuperate from various daily demands. Yet the fact is that Mrs. Lakhani has continued to add obligations and activities to her day-to-day life subsequent to the Accident.

Damages were awarded as follows:

Non-Pecuaniary Damages:   $45,000

Income Loss:  $8,771.97

Future Loss of Opportunity:  $30,000

Special Damages:  $12,045.96

Cost of Future Care:  $5,500

Loss of Houskeeeping Capacity:  $3,721

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The next case dealing with damages (Lidher v. Toews) involved a 2004 BC collision.

The Plaintiff testified that she suffered injuries affecting “her neck, shoulders, arms, back and head.“.   Madam Justice Smith found that the Plaintiff indeed was injured in this collision and awarded total damages just above $76,000 then reduced these by 10% for the Plaintiff’s ‘failure to mitigate‘.  Specifically the court found that the Plaintiff “did not do what she could reasonably have been expected to do  to keep herself from becoming deconditioned, and that some reduction of her award for failure to mitigate would be appropriate

In assessing the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) at $30,000 the court made the following key findings:

[78] I have concluded that the plaintiff has reacted more significantly to her injuries than someone else might have, and, in addition, that she has exaggerated her symptoms.  I note that the stresses and difficulties in her life may have made her more susceptible to pain, and may explain her reaction to her injuries.  I also take into account that she is not a sophisticated or highly educated woman, and that her communications with health care providers have often been through interpreters, except where the health care provider is Punjabi-speaking (Dr. Khunkhun and Dr. Johal are able to speak Punjabi).  There may well have been miscommunication as a result.

[79] The weight of the evidence satisfies me that the motor vehicle accident caused Ms. Lidher to experience pain and other symptoms from December 11, 2004 to the present.  Her symptoms may have been exacerbated by family stress, but to the extent that the family stress has caused her to experience the injuries more significantly than she otherwise would, it is an example of the principle that the defendant must take the plaintiff as she is found.  It is possible that family stress would have caused her to miss some work in any event, but I do not find this to be more than a slight possibility.

[80] The evidence as to whether Ms. Lidher will experience a full recovery is unclear.  However, both Dr. Hershler and Dr. Khunkhun expressed some optimism, particularly given the good results obtained by the Karp Rehabilitation program in 2008.

[81] On the balance of probabilities, I find that the plaintiff will likely experience further recovery, to the point that her symptoms will be minimal.  Her symptoms are already at a modest level.

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In the final personal injury case released today by the BC Supreme Court (Sanders v. Janze) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2002 car crash in Richmond, BC.  Fault was admitted and the trial focussed solely on quantum of damages.

The Plaintiff had suffered other injuries in the years before this collision and was still recovering from these at the time of this accident.

Mr. Justice Butler found that the Plaintiff suffered a neck injury and a back injury in this collision.  With respect to the neck he found as follows:

[67] The pre-existing degenerative changes in Ms. Sanders’ cervical spine made her more susceptible to injury.  She was still experiencing some pain and discomfort in her neck from the 2002 injuries, but it had improved and was not disabling.  The Accident aggravated the existing condition of her spine.  The nature and extent of her symptoms changed.  The pain and inability to function that she experienced after the Accident persisted and ultimately led to surgery in 2004.

[68] Dr. Connell’s evidence that there was no structural change in the cervical spine before and after the Accident based on the diagnostic imaging does not negate the opinion of Drs. Matishak and Watt that the Accident was an effective cause of the neck injuries that led to the surgery in 2004.  I accept Dr. Matishak’s opinion as the treating surgeon.  He was adamant that the Accident was a cause of the significant problems that Ms. Sanders experienced in her neck.  He was cross-examined extensively on the issue.  He did not waiver in his view.

With respect to the Plaintiff’s back injury the court found as follows:

[72] I have already found that Ms. Sanders’ low back was not symptomatic before the Accident.  She had experienced back pain from time to time since 1993, but after 1999 the low back was quiescent.  She worked at physically demanding jobs without experiencing low back pain.  In other words, a careful examination of Ms. Sanders’ pre-Accident condition establishes that Dr. Matishak’s assumption that her back condition was quiescent is correct….

[75] There can be no question that the Accident did cause Ms. Sanders’ back to become symptomatic.  She continued to experience pain from the date of the Accident onwards.  However, Mr. Janze also argues that Ms. Sanders’ absence of impairment on the SLR test in the months immediately after the Accident is objective evidence to show that the Accident did not affect her low back spinal structure.  Drs. Watt and Matishak were cross-examined on this issue.  Both maintained that this fact did not cause them to alter their opinions.  They both noted that there were symptoms of radiating leg pain shortly after the Accident.  Approximately six months after the Accident, Ms. Sanders’ SLR test revealed impairment on the right side….

[77] There is no other possible event or cause that could explain the development of the symptomology in this case.  The fact that the surgeries did not take place until 2007 does not mean that the Accident was not a cause of the injuries that ultimately led to those surgeries.  I have found that the symptoms and back pain were caused by the Accident.  Those symptoms persisted and became chronic.  The conservative treatment attempted did not provide relief.  Consequently, Ms. Sanders chose surgery.  The fact that three surgeries were required was a direct result of the condition of her spine after the Accident.  In summary, when the temporal connection is examined closely, it does establish that the Accident was a cause of the low back pain.

The court assessed the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages at $150,000 but then reduced this award by 40% t “to take into account the measureable risk that Ms. Sanders’ pre-existing conditions of her spine would have detrimentally impacted Ms. Sanders in any event of the Accident”

This case is worth reviewing in full for anyone interested in the law in BC relating to “pre-existing conditions” and the “crumbling skull” defence which is often raised in ICBC Injury Claims.

Whew…Now to catch my plane.

Brain Injury Claim Dismissed, $55,000 Pain and Suffering for STI's and Hearing Loss

The first released judgment by the BC Supreme Court in 2009 dealing with an ICBC Injury Claim was handed down today.
The Plaintiff was involved in a 2005 motor vehicle collision.  It was an intersection collision where the Defendant turned left in front of the Plaintiff’s vehicle.  The Plaintiff had a green light and a significant impact occurred.
The Plaintiff’s vehicle sustained ‘considerable’ damage and her vehicle was written off.  Liability (fault) was admitted on behalf of the defendants on the morning of trial.  The trial focused on the Plaintiff’s injuries and their value.
The most contentious claimed injury was a concussive injury affecting cognitive abilities.   The court dismissed the alleged brain injury stating that “The plaintiff bears the onus of proving that it is more probable than not that she suffered each of the injuries she alleges.  In my opinion, it has been shown that there is a reasonable possibility that the plaintiff sustained a mild brain injury as a result of the motor vehicle accident.  But I am not persuaded that it is more probable than not that this occurred.”
Mr. Justice Halfyard did a great job addressing the competing medical evidence and the discussion at paragraphs 30 – 58 of this judgement is worth reviewing for anyone advancing an ICBC brain injury claim to see some of the issues that often come into play during litigation.
In valuing the Plaintiff’s Pain and Suffering at $55,000 the court summarized her injuries and their effect on her life as follows:

[89]            I conclude that the plaintiff sustained injuries to the soft tissues of her neck and upper back, the rotator cuff muscles in her left shoulder and the soft tissues in her chest wall.  I would describe the severity of these injuries as being moderate.

[90]            I find that the plaintiff sustained a loss of her hearing ability (much more pronounced in her left ear), as a result of a mild labyrinthine concussion caused by the accident.  Not all of this loss of hearing was caused by the injury.  Some of it was attributable to the normal aging process.  I accept Dr. van Rooy’s description of the overall loss of hearing ability as being mild.

[91]            I am not satisfied that the plaintiff sustained injury to her brain.  Nor am I satisfied that any injury she sustained in the accident caused a loss of her ability to maintain proper balance or equilibrium. 

[92]            The plaintiff has substantially recovered from all of her injuries except for the injury to her left shoulder.  Three years have elapsed since the accident, and the plaintiff’s symptoms may persist for another two years into the future.  These symptoms will be troublesome and sometimes painful, when she is working with her hands while holding her arms in certain positions.  To some degree, these effects will affect the plaintiff’s ability to make and repair costumes, and to work in her daughter’s shop.  But her hip and her low back problem are probably as much or more a hindrance to the plaintiff, than is the residual problem with her left shoulder.  The depression and anxiety that has plagued the plaintiff for some years is the most likely cause of her loss of motivation.  But I accept that the plaintiff’s emotional reaction to her injuries from the motor vehicle accident did aggravate her pre-existing psychological condition, to some extent.

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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.

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