Tag: intersection crashes

Expert Reports and the New Rules of Court: The "Factual Assumptions" Requirement


One of the requirements in the new BC Supreme Court Rules is for expert reports to clearly set out the “factual assumptions on which the opinion is based“.  Failure to do so could result in a report being excluded from evidence.  Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing this requirement.
In this week’s case (Knight v. Li) the Plaintiff attempted to cross 41st Avenue in Vancouver, BC when his vehicle was T-boned by a the Defendant.  The Plaintiff had a stop sign and was the ‘servient driver’.  The Defendant was speeding.  Mr. Justice Harris found the Plaintiff 75% at fault for the crash and the Defendant 25% at fault.  The reasons for judgement are worth reviewing in full for the Court’s through discussion of the legal principles at play in intersection crashes.
In the course of the lawsuit the Plaintiff introduced an expert report from an engineer.  The Defendant objected to the report arguing that it did not comply with the rules of Court.  Mr. Justice Harris ultimately did allow the report into evidence but made the following critical comments addressing an experts need to clearly set out the factual assumptions underpinning their opinions:

[38]         Our new Supreme Court Civil Rules codify the obligations of experts testifying in our Court. In my view, they restate obligations our law has long recognised. The Civil Rules require a clear statement of the facts and assumptions on which a report is based. It was incumbent on Mr. Gough to state clearly the assumptions on which his report was based. He did not do so. He did not provide me with an opinion of the effect of Mr. Li’s excessive speed on his ability to avoid the collision as he claimed. He gave me an opinion of Mr. Li’s ability to avoid the collision if certain assumptions favourable to Mr. Knight were made. He said nothing about being instructed to make those assumptions and nothing about the effect on Mr. Li’s ability to avoid the Accident if those assumptions did not hold.

[39]         It must be remembered that Mr. Gough’s report is his evidence. In my view, the report as written did not comply with the requirements in the Civil Rules to state the facts and assumptions on which it is based. There is nothing improper in an expert accepting assumptions of fact that affect the opinions the expert provides, but they must be clearly stated. If they are not, there is a real risk that the trier of fact could be misled. In this case it required cross-examination to demonstrate the implications of the assumptions for the conclusions reached about Mr. Li’s ability to avoid the Accident. In my view, in this case, given the opinion being offered, the report should have clarified the effect of the assumptions about Mr. Knight’s driving on the conclusions about Mr. Li’s ability to avoid the Accident. By failing to do so, this aspect of the report descended into little more than a piece of advocacy.

More on Intersection Crashes and the Issue of Fault – Left Turning Vehicles


Further to last week’s post on this topic, reasons for judgment were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing the issue of fault for intersection crashes.  This week’s case is of particular interest because a ‘dominant‘ driver was found completely at fault for striking a left hand turning vehicle at an intersection.
In today’s case (Kelly v. Yuen) the Plaintiff was attempting a left hand turn at a light controlled intersection in Vancouver, BC.   As she turned the Defendant, who was approaching from the opposite direction, entered the intersection resulting in a collision.  The Defendant was travelling in the curb lane which, at the time of the crash, was restricted to buses and bicycles.  The Defendant argued that he had a green light and the Plaintiff was fully at fault.  The Plaintiff argued that the Defendant should not have been in the restricted lane and was fully at fault.  Ultimately the Court sided with the Plaintiff and allocated 100% of the responsibility for the crash on the through-driver.  Mr. Justice MacKenzie provided the following summary of some legal principles at play in these types of cases:

[23]         The legal principles with regards to left turn situations have been addressed in many cases. In Pacheco (Guardian ad litem) v. Robinson (1993), 75 B.C.L.R. (2d) 273 (C.A.) at para. 15, Legg J. stated:

In my opinion, a driver who wishes to make a left hand turn at an intersection has an obligation not to proceed unless it can be done safely. Where each party’s vision of the other is blocked by traffic, the dominant driver who is proceeding through the intersection is generally entitled to continue and the servient left-turning driver must yield the right of way. The existence of a left-turning vehicle does not raise a presumption that something unexpected might happen and cast a duty on the dominant driver to take extra care. Where the defendant, as here, has totally failed to determine whether a turn can be made safely, the defendant should be held 100 percent at fault for a collision which occurs.

[24]         In Carich v. Cook (1992), 90 D.L.R. (4th) 322 at 326 (B.C.C.A.), Lambert J.A. had this to say:

… The question as a driver turns left is whether there is any vehicle in any approaching lanes that constitutes an immediate hazard. If there is, the turn should not be made. If there is not, then the turn can be made and of course, care should be taken throughout the turn and as each new lane is entered to make sure that the situation as it was assessed when the turn started has not changed in the meantime. …

[25]         Of course, each case must be determined on its own particular facts. For example, in Uyeyama (Guardian ad litem of) v. Wittenberg, [1985] B.C.J. No. 1883 (C.A.), the BC Court of Appeal determined that a left-turning was not negligent for having entered an intersection, having failed to detect the excessive speed of the defendant’s vehicle. In addition, the left-turning driver was entitled to assume that the oncoming vehicle would stop at a red light and according to traffic law. The court concluded at para. 44 that the left turning driver had “exercised due care and commendable prudence in taking the action she did in attempting to make a difficult left turn.”

[26]         This case was cited with approval by the BC Court of Appeal in Kokkinis v. Hall (1996), 19 B.C.L.R. (3d) 273 (C.A.).

[27]         The court in Kokkinis considered other cases where the court held in favour of the servient driver. The court looked to Morgan v. Hauck (1988), 27 B.C.L.R. (2d) 118 (C.A.), a case where the BC Court of Appeal held that a dominant vehicle which had accelerated towards an intersection despite amber warning lights and then entered the intersection when the light was red could not rely on the relevant section of the Motor Vehicle Act to escape liability. In Kokkinis at para. 6, Newbury J.A. speaking for the court summarized the position taken in Morgan as follows:

… Esson, J.A. (as he then was), for example emphasised the “heavy onus which rests upon drivers approaching signals of this kind to make due allowance for the possibility that there will be a vehicle seeking to make a turn such as the plaintiff was making on this day. Their clear duty is to comply with the warning lights and to not ‘run the red’.”  But for the fact that appellate courts should, he said, vary apportionments of blame made by trial judges only in very rare circumstances, Esson, J.A. (with whom Macfarlane, J.A. concurred) would have considered setting aside even the 10 percent allocation of fault.

[28]         At para. 7 of Kokkinis, Newbury J.A. considered the Court of Appeal’s decision in Brucks v. Caslavsky, 45 B.C.A.C. 62, and stated the following:

A more recent case from this Court along similar lines is Brucks et al. v. Caslavsky et al. (19 April 1994) Vancouver Registry CA016390 (B.C.C.A.), which apparently was not cited to the trial judge. There, this Court rejected the argument that the onus placed by s. 176 of the Act is “absolute” and that in deciding whether an oncoming car constitutes an “immediate hazard”, a left-turning driver must consider the possibility that any oncoming motorist may intend to speed through an intersection and disobey the traffic signal. Taylor, J.A. for the Court quoted the well-known statement of principle of Lord Atkinson in Toronto Ry. Co. v. King et al. [1908] A.C. 260, at 269:


. . . traffic in the streets would be impossible if the driver of each vehicle did not proceed more or less on the assumption that the drivers of all other vehicles will do what it is their duty to do, namely, observe the rules regulating the traffic of the streets.

[29]         Even though Kokkinis and Morgan dealt with vehicles which approached an intersection and turned left on an amber light, the principles and observations stated in these decisions are helpful. At para. 10 of Kokkinis the court stated that the servient driver should not be faulted for having diverted her attention momentarily from oncoming traffic to check cross traffic. This is because servient drivers have “the duty to be aware not only of oncoming traffic, but also of cross traffic, pedestrians, and whatever else may be present in the intersection.”

[30]         At the same paragraph, the court added:

… To say that the plaintiff can be found at fault because she relied on the assumption that Mr. Hall would stop, and because she checked cross-traffic, would in my view subvert the duty on Mr. Hall to bring his vehicle to a safe stop at the amber light as the other traffic did. …

[31]         The authorities make it clear in my opinion that for liability to be found against the dominant driver in situations where the servient driver is making a left turn in front of stopped traffic, the evidence must establish that the dominant driver had a sufficient opportunity to avoid the accident, of which a reasonably careful and skilful driver would have availed him or herself (Pacheco, para. 18).

In finding the Defendant fully at fault the Court reasoned as follows:

[59]         The circumstances here are significantly different. This is not a situation where the servient driver has disregarded her statutory duty. Here it is just the reverse. Mr. Yuen flagrantly ignored the restriction on travel in the curb lane in a clear attempt, in my opinion, to drive along the restricted lane in order to get to his destination earlier rather than wait like other responsible drivers who were complying with the curb lane restriction. As Esson J.A. said in Morgan, I am satisfied that Mr. Yuen should have made “due allowance for the possibility that there will be a vehicle seeking to make a turn such as the plaintiff was making on this day”.

[60]          As Ker J. said in Rothenbusch at para. 149, “Who has the statutory right of way is informative; however, it does not determine liability in an accident. Drivers with a statutory right of way must still exercise caution to avoid accidents where possible.”

[61]         In these circumstances, I am satisfied a reasonably careful and prudent driver would not have pulled into the restricted curb lane, as Mr. Yuen did with limited vision, and accelerate towards a backed up intersection at an excessive rate of speed. As the dominant driver, Mr. Yuen was not required to take “extraordinary steps to avoid an accident or to show exceptional proficiency in the operation of a motor vehicle.” (Salaam v. Abramovic, 2010 BCCA 212 at para. 25). However, I am satisfied a reasonably prudent driver, exercising reasonable caution, would have had a sufficient opportunity to avoid the accident.

[62]         Furthermore, Ms. Kelly did not breach her statutory duty under s. 174 to yield the right of way. She took reasonable steps to determine she could make the left turn safely. The evidence which I have accepted establishes that when Ms. Kelly looked right and entered the curb lane, the Yuen vehicle was not “so close as to constitute an immediate hazard”.

[63]         As a result, I am satisfied that the accident was caused solely by the negligent driving of Mr. Yuen. The defence has not established any contributory negligence on the part of Ms. Kelly.

Intersection Crashes and Legal Principles Determining Fault


Reasons for judgment were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, summarizing some useful legal principles Judges look at when deciding the issue of fault following intersection crashes.
In today’s case (Luvera v. Benedict) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2005 motor vehicle collision.  He was driving his motorcycle and entered an intersection with the lights “probably in the late amber phase“.  At the same time, the Defendant who was approaching from the opposite direction of travel, “attempted her left turn only when the light turned from green to amber…(and) did not see the oncoming motorcycles“.  The Plaintiff drove into the right rear quarter panel of the Defendant’s vehicle.
Mr. Justice Wong found that both the Plaintiff and the Defendant were equally at fault for the crash.  Before reaching this conclusion the Court set out the following summary of principles of law:

[5]             In the March 2006 issue of the Verdict magazine, a publication of the B.C. Trial Lawyers Association, at page 40, there is a useful discussion of the jurisprudence in the article entitled, “Intersection/Right-of-Way Cases – Making Sense of the Law” authored by Barbara J. Flewelling.  At page 44, the author states:

There is a conflict in the cases about whether or not a left-turning driver must wait until all other vehicles have nearly or actually come to a stop before proceeding to make their turn.  Whereas the British Columbia Court of Appeal in Kokkinis v. Hall, [1996] B.C.J. No. 1560, has indicated that it is not necessary, in Mitchell v. ICBC, [2004] B.C.J. No. 1600, on a Rule 18A application, Mr. Justice Edwards was of the view that the interpretation of the obligations of a left-turning driver as set out in Kokkinis would invite left-turning drivers to assume rather than determine that oncoming through drivers will stop as the light turns yellow and requires through drivers to conduct themselves on the basis left-turning drivers will do so.  Edwards J. felt that due to the fact that many drivers regard an amber light as a signal to accelerate through an intersection, the Kokkinis principle seems to endorse a hazardous assumption of the part of the left-turning drivers.

In the Mitchell case, the left-turning plaintiff turned left on an amber light.  Mr. Justice Edwards found that the dominant through driver entered the intersection on an amber light, the collision occurred when the light was red, and that he was speeding.  Even though the judge said he could infer that the dominant driver would have had time to stop after the light turned yellow or could but was unable to stop due to speed, he still found that the left-turning servient driver had a duty to take account of manifest hazards and, by failing to see or react to the fact the van was approaching fast and not stopping, was negligent.  He apportioned liability equally relying on s. 1(2) of the Negligence Act as he was unable to determine different degrees of fault.

[6]             The author concludes in her summary at page 45 as follows:

Summary

Intersection/right-of-way cases are very fact dependent and it can be very difficult to assess liability with any precision.  However, there are some general principles that can be gleaned from the case law:

Although a driver who enjoys the right of way is entitled to assume that others will obey the law and the rules of the road, this is not absolute and if she is aware or ought to have been aware of the other driver’s disregard of the law and fails to take reasonable care to avoid a collision, she may be found partially or even wholly liable.

In determining if a dominant driver ought to have been aware of another’s disregard of the law, the courts seem to be taking a realistic approach to the exigencies of making rapid decisions in circumstances where a reasonable driver also has to check for cross-traffic and pedestrians.  The courts generally have recognized that at very busy intersections, there are times when the only way a driver can execute a left turn is on an amber light and a dominant driver may be found liable for failing to stop at an amber light.

The onus is on the servient driver to prove that the dominant driver was also negligent in that his or her negligence was a cause of the accident.

There is some conflict in the case law about whether a left-turning driver is obligated to wait until the oncoming traffic is nearly or completely stopped.  Some cases stand for the proposition that it is not necessary while others state that it is prudent to do so and that a left-turning driver who fails to do so will be found partially liable.

A servient left-turning driver has an obligation to take reasonable steps to determine if the dominant driver poses an immediate hazard.  The time this is determined is at the moment just before the turn is commenced.  There is some conflict in the law about whether that requires a servient driver to determine if the dominant driver is speeding and may not stop at the light.

[7]             Like my late colleague, Mr. Justice Edwards, factually I have also concluded that both parties were equally at fault.  Mr. Luvera should have approached the intersection with more caution in order to be able to stop safely.  Ms. Benedict failed to take into account the manifest hazards in this case of approaching motorcycles speeding towards her.

The Standard of Care For Drivers Approaching Flashing Green Lights


Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, discussing the issue of fault for intersection crashes governed by a flashing green light.
In today’s case (Nonis v. Granata) the Plaintiff was involved in a collision with the Defendant’s vehicle.  The crash happened at a busy intersection in Burnaby, BC.  The Plaintiff approached an intersection which was governed by a stop sign in his direction of travel.  He left the stop sign and attempted to drive through the intersection which consisted of 6 lanes of travel.  Vehicles were stopped in the first 5 lanes.  As the Plaintiff entered the 6th lane the Plaintiff failed to see the Defendant’s oncoming vehicle and the collision occurred.
The Defendant was not speeding.  He was faced with a flashing green light as he approached the intersection and had the right of way.   Despite this the Defendant was found 25% at fault for the crash for not taking appropriate care in all of the circumstances.  In reaching this verdict Madam Justice Fisher provided the following reasons addressing motorists responsibility when approaching a flashing green light:

[12] A driver approaching a flashing traffic signal also has a duty to proceed with caution.  Section 131(5) provides that when a flashing green light is exhibited by a traffic control signal at an intersection,

(a) the driver of a vehicle approaching the intersection or signal and facing the signal must cause it to approach the intersection or signal in such a manner that he or she is able to cause the vehicle to stop before reaching the signal or any crosswalk in the vicinity of the signal if a stop should become necessary, and must yield the right of way to pedestrians lawfully in a crosswalk in the vicinity of the signal or in the intersection …

[13]         Although this section has been held to advantage pedestrians, the presence of a flashing green light may be considered in assessing the potential liability of a dominant driver involved in a collision with another vehicle: Gautreau v. Hollige, 2000 BCCA 390.  Accordingly, in the circumstances of this case, I am entitled to consider the flashing green light as a factor in assessing the driving of the defendant and his obligation to respond to the danger that was presented by the plaintiff…

[28] The defendant, while the dominant driver, proceeded toward an intersection with a flashing green light in circumstances where the traffic in the immediate two lanes to his left had either stopped or was barely moving.  In my view, he had a duty – consistent with s. 131(5) of the Act – to slow down sufficiently to be able to cause his vehicle to stop should this become necessary.  This he did not do.  His evidence was that he was driving at approximately 40 kilometres per hour.  Had he slowed down, he would have had a sufficient opportunity to avoid the collision, as he would have been in the same position as the vehicles to his left.  His failure to keep a proper lookout contributed to the accident….

[33] For all of these reasons, it is my view that both parties were at fault for this collision.  Because the defendant was the dominant driver, I consider him to be less at fault.  Although he failed to slow down, he was not speeding, as were the defendants in both Andrews and Hynna. Under the Negligence Act, I find the plaintiff 75% at fault and the defendant 25% at fault.

$30,000 Awarded for Moderate, Lingering Soft Tissue Injuries

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, awarding a Plaintiff damages as a result of injuries and losses from a motor vehicle collision.
In today’s case (Rothenbusch v. Van Boeyen) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2 vehicle intersection collision in Mission, BC in 2007.  The Plaintiff was making a left hand turn when his vehicle collided with the on-coming defendant.  The Court found the Plaintiff 30% at fault for failing to yield to the Defendant’s right of way and the Defendant 70% at fault for speeding, failing to keep a proper lookout and failing to take proper evasive maneuvers when he had the opportunity to do so.
The Plaintiff claimed compensation for various injuries although the Court found the Plaintiff failed to prove that some of his more serious injuries were caused by the crash.  Ultimately Madam Justice Ker found the collision caused various soft tissue injuries which did not fully recovery.  The Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) were assessed at $30,000.  In arriving at this amount Madam Justice Ker provided the following reasons:
[180] Mr. Rothenbusch was almost 81 years of age at the time of the accident.  Although retired from hog farming, Mr. Rothenbusch remained active in the community, curling two or three times a week and engaging in volunteer pastoral work at a senior’s lodge and visiting people in the hospital. He also helped a friend at a berry farm by planting and pruning throughout the year and in picking berries during the summer season. In addition to being a hog farmer, Mr. Rothenbusch worked in construction and as a plumber and continued to do his own home repairs and helped others in this area….

242] In the end, the totality of the evidence supports the conclusion Mr. Rothenbusch sustained moderate soft tissue injuries to his neck, lumbar spine, left scapula and left ribs as well as cuts to his face as a result of the accident. The evidence further supports the conclusion that the major disabilities from the injuries were largely resolved by the end of December 2007. However, Mr. Rothenbusch continues to experience intermittent neck and shoulder pain as a result of the injuries from the accident, and he is still restricted in his range of motion for his neck and shoulder. These continuing symptoms have, in part, impacted on his ability to return to all his pre-accident activities….

[255] Mr. Rothenbusch continues to experience intermittent pain in his neck and continues to have difficulties with his shoulder. He is not able to engage in some of the home repair, plumbing activities or berry picking activities he enjoyed prior to the accident.

[256] Although Mr. Rothenbusch may not be as active as a younger plaintiff, it is important to bear in mind that as one advances in life, activities and pleasures sometimes become more limited. In that respect, impairment of the limited activities and pleasures which an individual can engage in becomes more serious: Williams at para. 17.

[257] Having regard to all the circumstances and taking what guidance I can from the authorities provided by counsel, I assess Mr. Rothenbusch’s non-pecuniary damages at $30,000.

In addition to the above, the decision is worth reviewing for the Court’s thorough discussion of “in-trust” claims (claims where plaintiff’s seek compensation on behalf of others who have provided them assistance with their accident related disabilities) which are set out in paragraphs 260-290 of the judgement.

Can A Driver Be At Fault For A BC Car Crash If They Have The Right of Way?

The answer is yes and reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Court of Appeal discussing this area of law.
In today’s case (Salaam v. Abramovic) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2005 car crash in Surrey, BC.  She sued for damages.  At trial her case was dismissed (you can click here to read my post summarizing the trial judgement) .  She appealed and the BC High Court overturned the judgement finding that the other motorist was 25% to blame for the crash.
By way of background the crash happened at a “T” intersection.  The Plaintiff was faced with a stop sign.  She attempted to make a left hand turn across a through highway.   The Defendant, travelling down the highway, had the statutory right of way and is considered the ‘dominant driver‘.  As he approached the intersection the Plaintiff entered into his lane and the crash happened.  In finding that the Defendant was partially at fault for the crash despite having the right of way the BC Court of Appeal stated as follows:

[26] The oft-quoted passages from the concurring judgment of Cartwright and Locke JJ. in Walker v. Brownlee, [1952] 2 D.L.R. 450 at 460-61 (S.C.C.), succinctly set out the duties of a driver in the dominant position:

The duty of a driver having the statutory right-of-way has been discussed in many cases.  In my opinion it is stated briefly and accurately in the following passage in the judgment of Aylesworth J.A., concurred in by Robertson C.J.O., in Woodward v. Harris, [1951] O.W.N. 221 at p. 223: “Authority is not required in support of the principle that a driver entering an intersection, even although he has the right of way, is bound to act so as to avoid a collision if reasonable care on his part will prevent it.  To put it another way: he ought not to exercise his right of way if the circumstances are such that the result of his so doing will be a collision which he reasonably should have foreseen and avoided.”

While the judgment of the Court of Appeal in that case was set aside and a new trial ordered [[1952] 1 D.L.R. 82] there is nothing said in the judgments delivered in this Court to throw any doubt on the accuracy of the statement quoted.

In applying this principle it is necessary to bear in mind the statement of Lord Atkinson in Toronto R. W. Co. v. King, 7 C.R.C. 408 at p. 417, [1908] A.C. 260 at p. 269: “Traffic in the streets would be impossible if the driver of each vehicle did not proceed more or less upon the assumption that the drivers of all the other vehicles will do what it is their duty to do, namely, observe the rules regulating the traffic of the streets.”

While the decision of every motor vehicle collision case must depend on its particular facts, I am of opinion that when A, the driver in the servient position, proceeds through an intersection in complete disregard of his statutory duty to yield the right-of-way and a collision results, if he seeks to cast any portion of the blame upon B, the driver having the right-of-way, A must establish that after B became aware, or by the exercise of reasonable care should have become aware, of A’s disregard of the law B had in fact a sufficient opportunity to avoid the accident of which a reasonably careful and skilful driver would have availed himself; and I do not think that in such circumstances any doubts should be resolved in favour of A, whose unlawful conduct was fons et origo mali.

[27] The defendant also cites the judgment of this Court in Pacheco (Guardian ad litem of) v. Robinson (1993), 75 B.C.L.R. (2d) 273 at 277, 43 M.V.R. (2d) 44:

[15]      In my opinion, a driver who wishes to make a left hand turn at an intersection has an obligation not to proceed unless it can be done safely.  Where each party’s vision of the other is blocked by traffic, the dominant driver who is proceeding through the intersection is generally entitled to continue and the servient left-turning driver must yield the right of way.  The existence of a left-turning vehicle does not raise a presumption that something unexpected might happen and cast a duty on the dominant driver to take extra care.  Where the defendant, as here, has totally failed to determine whether a turn can be made safely, the defendant should be held 100 percent at fault for a collision which occurs.

[28] In Pacheco, the question was whether the plaintiff ought to have anticipated that the defendant, who was turning left at a controlled intersection, might proceed into his path when it was unsafe to do so.  In my view, the hazard posed by the plaintiff’s vehicle in this case is not analogous to the hazard posed by the defendant’s vehicle in Pacheco.  The defendant in the Pacheco case had done nothing to foreshadow that she would unlawfully cross into the plaintiff’s line of travel.  In contrast, in this case, the plaintiff had been in violation of the rules of the road continuously almost from the moment that the defendant saw her: she proceeded through a stop sign without coming to a full stop and continued to pull forward into his lane of travel as he approached the intersection.  Although he changed lanes to pull around her, she continued forward in a halting manner, not stopping at any time.

[29] The question in this case is whether the defendant exercised reasonable care in approaching the intersection.  When he was 350 feet away, the plaintiff’s vehicle started crossing the road and entered into his lane of travel.  A reasonable driver would have been put on notice that the plaintiff was not obeying the rules of the road and posed a hazard.  A reasonable driver would have exercised increased caution, paid close attention to the plaintiff’s vehicle and prepared to stop or to give it a wide berth.  Instead, the defendant insisted on his right of way.  A mere 100 feet from the intersection, when the plaintiff’s vehicle was fully in his lane of travel and still proceeding forward, the defendant changed lanes in an attempt to drive around her.  Until the last moment, he maintained his speed.  In the best case scenario, if the plaintiff had seen the defendant’s vehicle and stopped abruptly, the collision would have been avoided by mere inches.  Instead, the plaintiff continued forward, and the defendant’s vehicle struck the middle of the plaintiff’s vehicle.  In the circumstances, the defendant’s negligence contributed to the accident…

[34] In applying the “immediate hazard” test in order to determine negligence, the trial judge erred in law.  Applying the correct legal test to the defendant’s conduct (i.e., the test enunciated in Walker v. Brownlee), the defendant had a duty to take care when he approached the plaintiff’s car in the intersection, having had ample warning that she was not following the rules of the road.  A reasonable driver would not have insisted on right of way, and certainly would not have driven aggressively through the intersection, aiming to pass within inches of the plaintiff’s moving vehicle…

[38] I would find the plaintiff 75% at fault and the defendant 25% at fault.

BC Supreme Court Discusses Law of Left Hand Turn Intersection Crashes


Perhaps no type of accident has received more judicial attention than intersection collisions between left hand turning motorists and through drivers.  Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court discussing the law of fault when such a collision occurs on a green light.
In today’s case (Basi v. Buttar) the Plaintiff was involved in a January, 2007 car crash in Surrey, BC.  She was travelling through an intersection when the Defendant turned in front of her as she was just about to enter the intersection.  The Defendant said that the Plaintiff was at fault because she was speeding. Mr. Justice Brown found the Defendant 100% at fault for the collision and in doing so provided the following succinct summary and application of the law:

[24] Accidents such as this are a common occurrence. Section 174 of the Motor Vehicle Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 318 [the Act] imposes duties both on the driver proceeding through the intersection (the “through driver”) and on the driver intending to turn left. The driver turning left must yield to the through driver where the through driver is in the intersection or constitutes an immediate hazard to the driver turning left. If the through driver does not constitute an immediate hazard, that is, if it is safe to turn left, then the through driver must yield the right of way to the driver turning left provided that the driver turning left has signalled his intention to turn left per s. 172 of the Act.

[25] The main question in this case is whether the plaintiff’s vehicle constituted an immediate hazard to Mr. Sarai when he started his turn, or whether the plaintiff’s car was far enough away from the intersection so that Mr. Sarai could safely turn left. If the former, the defendant should have yielded; if the latter, the plaintiff should have yielded. However, even if one of the parties has the right of way, that does not discharge them from a duty to exercise reasonable care in the circumstances.

[26] Mr. Sarai managed to clear the intersection in sufficient time to avoid a collision; however I accept the evidence of the plaintiff and Mr. Lavergne that the plaintiff’s car and Mr. Sarai’s van nearly collided. And while, as stated, I have some reservations about Mr. Laverne’s impartiality, I have no reason to conclude that he fabricated his evidence about how close the plaintiff was to the intersection when Mr. Sarai made his turn. I find that the plaintiff was too close to the intersection for Mr. Sarai to safely complete his turn and that he should have yielded to the plaintiff in accordance with s. 174 of the Act.

[27] While counsel for the defendant urged me to find that the plaintiff was driving too fast for the slippery road conditions, the fact remains that Mr. Sarai himself confirmed that the plaintiff was driving her vehicle in a controlled and safe fashion as she approached the intersection. Of course, he also testified, in effect, that she did not constitute an immediate hazard to him as she approached, so this evidence about the plaintiff’s safe driving is also somewhat consistent with his position that he could turn safely.

[28] The strongest argument in favour of the defendant comes from the fact that the plaintiff could not control her car and Mr. Lavergne’s evidence that Mr. Sarai made his turn slowly—had he moved more quickly, the plaintiff could have travelled straight through the intersection. This could suggest that the plaintiff may have been driving too fast or over-reacted.

[29] However, I am more persuaded by the evidence that Mr. Sarai started his turn when the plaintiff was too close to the intersection. She attempted to brake and turn to the left to avoid a collision with Mr. Sarai’s van. She lost control because of the slippery road conditions. I cannot conclude on the balance of probabilities that she drove too fast for the conditions. The only evidence of that comes from Mr. Buttar, who I find had limited opportunity to observe. I prefer the evidence of the plaintiff, Mr. Lavergne and Mr. Sarai in this regard. Therefore, I find the defendant Mr. Sarai 100% responsible for the accident for failing to yield to the plaintiff’s approaching vehicle, which constituted an immediate hazard as he commenced his left turn.

The Court went on to award the Plaintiff just over $42,000 in total damages for her injuries.  In assessing her non-pecuniary damages at $30,000 Mr. Justice Brown summarized her injuries and their effect on her life as follows:

[67] This is a moderate soft tissue injury with symptoms prolonged beyond the usual period expected possibly on account of the plaintiff’s clinical history of complaints in the same areas as noted before the accident. However, she was asymptomatic pre-accident, except for occasional headaches. She has steadily improved since the accident. She returned to her to job at the bank by March 19, 2007, a little over two months after the accident, and to the CRS not long after that. She has returned to full time work, with her work hours totalling over 60 hours per week. Recreational activities such as skiing and running have been negatively impacted, and her homemaking capacity has been diminished. She has made a near full recovery from her injuries, and the accepted medical evidence indicates the plaintiff will see a full recovery in the future, though she may suffer minor flare-ups…

[70] The cases cited by counsel encompass the appropriate range of damages for a case of this kind, but of course, each case involves its own factors, and therefore requires an individual assessment.

[71] Based on all the evidence before me, I award $30,000 to the plaintiff for non-pecuniary damages

More on Liability – Stop Signs, Speeding and Fault

Reasons for judgment were released this week dealing with the issue of fault for a car crash where one motorist bound by a stop sign enters an intersection and gets hit by a speeding vehicle.
In this week’s case (McKinnon v. Peterson) the Plaintiff stopped at a stop sign heading northbound on Marlborough Avenue at the intersection of Kingsway.  As the Plaintiff entered the intersection and almost cleared it he was struck by the defendants vehicle who was travelling westbound.   The Plaintiff’s vehicle was struck on the right passenger side in a “violent” collision which caused all four tires of the defendant’s vehicle to leave the ground and “drove the plaintiff’s vehicle… over the curb, flattening a stop sign, shearing a light standard, and through a garden bed, and finally into the front of a restaurant. ”
When a motorist leaves a stop sign and attempts to cross an intersection on a through highway the motorist needs to comply with s. 175 of the Motor Vehicle Act which holds in part that:

175(1)  If a vehicle that is about to enter a through highway has stopped in compliance with section 186,

(a)        the driver of the vehicle must yield the right of way to traffic that has entered the intersection on the through highway or is approaching so closely on it that it constitutes an immediate hazard, and

(b)        having yielded, the driver may proceed with caution.

(2)        If a vehicle is entering a through highway in compliance with subsection (1), traffic approaching the intersection on the highway must yield the right of way to the entering vehicle while it is proceeding into or across the highway.

Mr. Justice Hinkson held that while the Plaintiff entered the intersection at a time when the Defendant did not constitute an “immediate hazard” the Plaintiff failed to proceed with caution by “failing to observe the defendant’s vehicle that was there to be seen” and for this the Plaintiff was found at fault.

The analysis did not end there, however, as the Defendant was also found at fault for speeding and failing to yield the right of way to the plaintiff who gained the right of way after he entered the intersection at a time when the Defendant did not pose an immediate hazard.

Specifically Mr. Justice Hinkson found that “the defendant was traveling at a speed of close to double the posted speed limit as he approached the intersection of Kingsway and Marlborough Avenue on November 2, 2006, and that he was unable to do so safely. He failed to yield the right of way to the plaintiff.”

The Court went on to find the Defendant 2/3 at fault for this collision and the Plaintiff 1/3 at fault.  In doing so Mr. Justice Hinkson described the relative fault of the parties as follows:

[47] I am unable to conclude that such a division of liability is warranted in this case. Mr. Petersen was travelling at what I have found to be an unsafe speed in all of the circumstances, and knew, or should have known that he would be unable to safely stop for vehicles that might choose to cross Kingsway, having acquired the right of way to do so. His conduct in these circumstances was reckless.

[48] On the other hand, Mr. McKinnon chose to cross a six lane street at other than a traffic controlled intersection, knowing that vehicles travelled that road at that time of day at speeds greater than posted. In so doing, he was obliged to proceed with caution, and I find that he did not.

[49] Weighing the respective negligence of the parties, I consider that the defendant must bear the majority of the liability for the collision. I conclude that the defendant’s conduct was considerably more negligent than the plaintiff’s, and that the defendant must bear two-thirds of the blame for the collision, and the plaintiff the remaining one-third. There will be judgment accordingly.

Intersection crashes are some of the most complicated cases when determing the relative blameworthiness of each party.  While each case turns on its own facts and the results can very depending on all the subtleties of evidence in any given case, this decision is worth reviewing for a careful analysis of some of the factors that come into play when deciding whom to blame to what degree for an intersection crash.

Pain and Suffering and Your ICBC Injury Claim

If you have an ICBC Injury Claim for Non-Pecuniary Damages as a result of a BC Car Crash (a tort claim) the best way to determine the potential value of your non-pecuniary damages (damages for things such as loss of enjoyment of life, pain and suffering) is to look at how courts have treated similar ICBC injury claims. 
When looking to previous court cases for guidance some of the things you will want to look at are similarities with the type of injury, the severity of injury, the age of the Plaintiff, whether the injury involves a dominant or servient limb, the types of treatments involved and the prognosis.  Another useful factor is recency.  If you can’t find recent cases with similar injuries and are relying on older cases you should adjust the damages for inflation to get a sense of what they would be worth today.
No two injuries are identical and the best one can usually hope to do is find ICBC Injury Cases with a similar injuries to help establish a potential range of damages.  In recognizing the the uniqueness of each ICBC Injury Claim Mr. Justice Halfyard said the following in the case of Tuner v. Coblenz:
It is well accepted that previously-decided cases have limited value which usually consists in establishing a general range of damages within which the award in a particular case may fall.  No two plaintiffs will ever be the same in age, previous state of strength and health, occupation and other activities.  The injuries sustained by one plaintiff will never be the same as those received by another, in kind or severity.  The reaction of any two persons to the pain of a similar injury, or to particular treatments, will be different.  The length of time that has passed between the date of the injury and the date of trial will vary from case to case, and can be a significant distinguishing feature.
As an ICBC Injury Claims Lawyer I have enjoyed publishing this blog to help people have access to a database of ICBC Injury Claims.  Time permitting I intend to keep this service up.   To this end, here is the latest ICBC Injury Claims update.
Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court (Rattenbury v. Samra) awarding a Plaintiff $30,000 in non-pecuniary damages as a result of an ICBC Injury Claim.
In today’s case the 23 year old plaintiff was injured when he was involved in an intersection crash in Surrey, BC.  The crash occurred when the Defendant attempted a left hand turn in front of the Plaintiff’s vehicle.  Fault was admitted leaving only the issue of quantum for trial (value of the claim).
In this case the Plaintiff suffered a concussion and had headaches, neck pain and shoulder pain.  These injuries resolved fairly quickly.  The most serious injury was an alleged low back injury.  The Plaintiff’s physician gave evidence that the collision caused a disc injury to the L5/S1 level of the Plaintiff’s spine.
The court rejected this opinion and found that this disc injury could have easily preceded the car crash given the Plaintiff’s very active lifestyle.  The court did find, however, that even if the disc injury was unrelated to the car crash this disc injury became symptomatic with pain because of the collision.  The court made the following finding:

[86]            I find myself unable to accept Dr. Fritz’s opinion that the disc injury occurred in the motor vehicle accident.  Certainly the disc injury does exist but Dr. Fritz agrees that it is impossible to prove when it occurred and it could just as easily have occurred from the plaintiff’s other activities than from the motor vehicle accident.  Dr. Fritz did not treat the plaintiff before his accident and it is therefore understandable that he would conclude that the disc injury occurred in the accident when the plaintiff demonstrated a restricted straight leg raising after the accident.  However, I do not think that is enough to prove the disc injury occurred in the accident itself.

[87]            In my view it is enough to prove, however, that even if the disc injury preceded the accident, it became symptomatic with back pain because of the accident.  The evidence is that the plaintiff had no back problems before the accident and was a completely healthy and physically active young man.  As a result of the accident he could not play soccer for six months and was unable to do any of the heavy lifting in his job at Black & Lee.

[88]            The plaintiff’s evidence of originally not being able to do any heavy lifting at work but being able to do it at the time of his examination in January 2008, and then not being able to do it again by the time of trial, is certainly strange.  However Dr. Fritz was never questioned about this evidence and it is logical to me that the plaintiff may have been able to resume the heavy lifting for a time after the accident, with back pain, but over time became too wearing on him and he had to stop.

[89]            I am satisfied that it has been proven that the plaintiff has chronic back pain resulting from the disc injury, even if that injury preceded the accident.  I must accept Dr. Fritz’s opinion that it is chronic because I have no other medical opinion.

[90]            I do conclude, however, this chronic back pain is only mild in nature, in the nature of a nagging back pain that does not disable the plaintiff from pursuing his soccer at the highest level or his golf or any other sports that he used to enjoy, and does not prevent him from working full time at the business in a more supervisory role.

The following damages were awarded after a 2 day trial:
Non-Pecuniary Damages: $30,000
Past Wage Loss: $1,088
Special Damages: $271.56

Intersections, Left Hand Turns and ICBC Injury Claims

(Note: The case discussed in this post was overturned by the BC Court of Appeal om May 3, 2010 with a 75% / 25% split of liability.  You can click here to read the BC Court of Appeal’s judgement)
One of the toughest types of ICBC injury cases to predict the outcome of are those involving the issue of fault when 2 vehicles collide in an intersection.  Even some of the most seasoned ICBC Injury Claims Lawyers can’t predict the outcome of a case where a left hand turning driver on an amber light is stuck by a through driver.  There are plenty of cases dealing with such crashes and the results vary from finding the left turning vehicle 100% at fault to those finding the through driver 100% and every imaginable split in between.
Reasons for judgement were released today dealing with an intersection crash finding a left hand turning  vehicle 100% responsible for an intersection crash.  In today’s case (Salaam v. Abramovic) the Plaintiff was turning left at the intersection of Scott Road and 120th Street in Surrey, BC.  This intersection is controlled by a stop sign.  As the Plaintiff was turning left her vehicle was struck by the Defendant’s.  Madam Justice Gropper made the following analysis in finding the Plaintiff 100% at fault:

[40] The essence of the plaintiff’s position is that the defendant should have foreseen what the plaintiff would do: he knew that the plaintiff intended to make a left hand turn, crossing the northbound traffic and entering the southbound lane to Scott Rd.; he knew that her attention was to her right for approaching southbound traffic.  He should have known that the plaintiff was moving slowly across the northbound lanes and would continue to do so despite the presence of the defendant’s vehicle.  She argues that the defendant had no reason to assume that she was aware of the defendant’s approach.

[41] The plaintiff relies on the provisions of s. 175(1) of the Act.  She says that once she entered the intersection, the defendant’s vehicle had not nor was it approaching so closely that it constituted an immediate hazard.  Essentially, when she entered the intersection it was safe to do so and the defendant ought to have yielded the right of way to her.

[42] The plaintiff was the left turning vehicle.  It was her obligation, in accordance with s. 174 of the Act, to yield the right of way to the traffic approaching from the opposite direction.  The plaintiff did not turn her head to observe whether traffic was approaching.  Nor did the plaintiff comply with the provisions of s. 175 of the Act.  She did not stop before entering the intersection.   The plaintiff did not do anything to ascertain whether there was traffic on the through highway, or whether it was close.  She did not proceed with caution, despite driving slowly.

[43] The unassailable fact is that the defendant was there to be seen from 450 feet away from the plaintiff before she entered the intersection.

[44] The plaintiff argues that the defendant had no reason to assume that she was aware of his approach.  Putting aside for the moment that was her duty to determine whether there was traffic approaching on the through highway, he was entitled to assume that she did know he was approaching, by hearing him, or to expect that she would actually turn her head to observe approaching traffic.

[45] I agree with the analysis in Pacheco that it was the plaintiff’s obligation, as she wished to make a left turn at the intersection, not to proceed until she could do so safely.  The plaintiff did not determine whether her turn could be done safely.

[46] The authorities upon which the plaintiff relies, as well as the provisions of the Act, require, at the very least that all drivers keep a proper lookout.

[47] The dispute between the experts devolves to when the defendant’s approach constituted an immediate hazard to the plaintiff.  The defendant’s expert, Mr. Lawrence, describes the defendant becoming an immediate hazard to the plaintiff when she enters the left lane of the northbound traffic.  The plaintiff’s expert, Mr. Brown, considers that the plaintiff’s vehicle was an immediate hazard to the defendant when she entered the intersection.

[48] Mr. Brown’s analysis ignores the provisions of ss. 174 and 175 of the Act, which require the left turning vehicle to first stop, and then yield the right of way to traffic approaching so closely that it constitutes an immediate hazard, and then proceed with caution.  The plaintiff did none of those things, she did not stop at the stop sign, she did not ascertain whether there was any through traffic, whether such traffic constituted an immediate hazard or not, nor did she proceed with caution.  Mr. Brown’s analysis requires the defendant to anticipate that the plaintiff was not following the rules of the road.

[49] Mr. Lawrence considers that the immediate hazard arose when the plaintiff entered the left lane of the northbound traffic.  I agree.  The plaintiff was driving very slowly and could stop almost immediately.  It was reasonable for the defendant to assume that she was aware of his presence and that she would not move into his path.  She did.  When the defendant honked, the plaintiff stopped.  It was the plaintiff’s presence in the defendant’s lane of travel which caused the accident.

[50] The plaintiff did not ascertain whether the defendant was an immediate hazard when she entered the intersection.  In all the circumstances, I find that the plaintiff is 100% liable for the collision which occurred.

[51] Therefore, the plaintiff’s claim is dismissed.  The defendant shall have his costs.

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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.

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