Tag: motorcycle accidents

Motorcycle Learner Licences, the Supervision Requirement and Breach of Insurance


Useful reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Court of Appeal addressing the circumstances when a motorcycle learner will be held in breach of insurance for not being supervised by a qualified driver.
In today’s case (Hagen v. ICBC) the Plaintiff had a valid 6L learner’s licence.  One requirement of a learner’s motorcycle licence is for the learner to be supervised while riding by a fully licenced motorcyclist.  The Plaintiff was being supervised by his wife who had a valid motorcycle licence.   While riding in Vancouver in 2008 the Plaintiff was momentarily out of the view of his wife.  At this time he was struck by a truck making a u-turn and was seriously injured.
The Plaintiff applied to ICBC for no-fault benefits but ICBC refused to pay these arguing that the Plaintiff was in breach of his insurance for failing to comply with section 30.06 of the Motor Vehicle Act Regulations which read in part as follows:

Section 30.06 of the Motor Vehicle Act Regulations provides:

(4)        A person to whom a Class 6L licence is issued, … must not operate a motorcycle unless the person is under the direct supervision of another person who

(a) is at least 19 years of age, and

(b) holds a valid and subsisting driver’s licence, other than a learner’s licence … of a class that permits him or her to operate a motorcycle.

(5)        For the purposes of subsections (4) … direct supervision means that the person supervising can, at all times, see the other person while the other person is operating the motorcycle.

ICBC argued that “however momentary the separation of the vehicles may and consequent loss of sight may be, such loss of sight…negates eligibility for Part 7 Benefits“.  The trial judge disagreed with ICBC and ordered them to pay the Plaintiff no-fault benefits finding that ICBC’s interpretation would impose “financially devastating consequences on a person as a result of events over which he or she had no control
ICBC appealed and failed.  In dismissing ICBC’s arguments the BC Court of Appeal provided the following useful reasons addressing the requirement of learner motorcyclists to be supervised:

[21]         One may ask whether it was intended that a learner motorcyclist would be in breach of the supervision requirement when, having arranged for supervision, the supervisor acted contrary to agreement and took another route? In my view the answer is no.

[22]         This discussion is akin to the discussion of “due diligence” urged upon us by the appellant in saying we need not concern ourselves with the “offence” consequences of the interpretation it advocates. It says Mr. Hagen could answer a charge of breaching the supervision requirement by saying that he demonstrated due diligence in his attempt to comply, and that his non-compliance was outside of his control. In other words, it says a charge of breaching s. 30.06(4) would be treated as a strict liability offence. If that is the case, why, then, should other consequences, perhaps more grave, adhere to Mr. Hagen in a civil context because his supervision failed in spite of his reasonable efforts to comply with the section?

[23]         Section 30.06(4) is directed entirely to the behaviour of the learner, and in my view s. 30.06(5), in articulating the requirement of observation at all times, must be read as focusing upon the behaviour for which the learner can be responsible. Taking this approach, s. 30.06 of the Regulations, read in context, requires the learner to take all reasonable steps to ensure he (or she) is being supervised in compliance with the Regulations. This requires the learner to arrange for supervision by a person who commits to keeping him in sight at all times, and requires the learner to refrain from driving where it is not reasonable for him (or her) to think such supervision is occurring. I readily acknowledge that there will be circumstances in which a supervisor who fails to follow may nullify the learner’s Part 7 benefits, as in a failure to keep sight of the learner for such a period of time or distance that the learner, acting reasonably, should have become aware the plan for supervision had been compromised. Thus there will be a factual question: did the learner take all reasonable steps to ensure he was being supervised? In this case that translates to the question: should the learner have been aware he was not in sight of the supervisor?

[24]         This is a case in which the supervisor, not the learner, made a mistake, a mistake which was so near in time and distance to the accident it was open to conclude Mr. Hagen could not be faulted for failing to detect his loss of supervision. The judge described the lack of supervision as momentary. He referred to evidence that Mr. Hagen had seen the supervisor behind him at the previous intersection. The judge considered the evidence of the street design and the evidence that the many stop signs had permitted some vehicles to fall in between Mr. Hagen and his supervisor. I consider it was open to him on the evidence to conclude that this was a case of loss of contact that did not put Mr. Hagen in breach of the Regulations.

[25]         It follows I would dismiss the appeal.

Motorcyclists, "Staggered" Riding and Safe Distances

It is not uncommon for motorcyclists to travel in a ‘staggered‘ formation when riding in groups.  Typically one motorcyclist will travel within a few feet of the left of their lane of travel (the “A” position) with the following motorist travelling within a few feet of the right side of their lane of travel (the “C” position).  This staggered position is used in part because section 194(4) of the BC Motor Vehicle Act prohibits motorcyclists from operating “their motorcycles side by side in the same direction in the same traffic lane“.
When travelling in groups of two it is important for the rear motorist to leave sufficient space between them and the lead motorist.  Failing to do so could be negligent as was demonstrated in reasons for judgement released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Nanaimo Registry.
In last week’s case (Brooks-Martin v. Martin) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2005 collision in Saanich, BC.  The Plaintiff was travelling in the “C” position behind a motorcycle operated by her husband who was travelling in the “A” position.   Her husband unexpectedly cut in front of her.  In trying to avoid a collision with her husband she lost control, fell down onto the road and was injured.

(Accident Reconstruction Software courtesy of SmartDraw)
She sued her husband for damages.  Mr. Justice Halfyard found that the Defendant “cut in front of the plaintiff’s motorcycle and created an unreasonable risk to her safety.“.  For this reason he was found legally responsible for the Plaintiff’s crash.  The Plaintiff, however, was also found partially at fault and had her damages reduced by 30% as a result.  In finding the Plaintiff partly at fault Mr. Justice Halfyard made the following observations:
[148]     By reason of s. 194(4) of the Motor Vehicle Act, it is not unlawful for two motorcycle drivers to ride side-by-side in the same traffic lane. I accept that it is permissible and common practice among motorcycle riders to ride in their lane of travel in the A position and C position, and then come to a stop at approximately the same time, side-by-side. But in my view, s. 194(4) does not operate for or against the plaintiff in this case…

[162]     I am satisfied that the plaintiff failed to take reasonable care for her own safety, in several respects. In my opinion, a motorcycle driver who possessed reasonable driving skills and who was exercising reasonable care for her own safety would not have been travelling in the C position only two motorcycle lengths behind a lead motorcycle in the A position, at a speed of 40 kph, when both riders were approaching the back end of a stopped pickup truck and when she was not more than 14.56 metres away from that truck (and when the lead motorcycle driver in the A position was closer to that truck and travelling at least as fast as she was).

[163]     I find that when the defendant Martin steered in front of her, the plaintiff was driving without due care and attention and at a speed that was excessive relative to the road and traffic conditions, in relation to both her husband’s motorcycle and the stopped truck. That conduct was contrary to s. 144(1) of the Motor Vehicle Act and also constituted negligence.

[164]     I find also that, at the time the defendant Martin steered in front of her, the plaintiff was following the defendant Martin’s motorcycle more closely than was reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speeds of the two motorcycles and the presence of the stopped pickup truck ahead of them. That conduct was contrary to s. 162(1) of the Motor Vehicle Act. I find that this conduct also constituted negligence on the part of the plaintiff.

[165]     I am also satisfied that this driving conduct of the plaintiff in breach of the standard of care, was a cause of her losing control of her motorcycle. She put herself into a situation where the defendant Martin (before he swerved) was a potential hazard to her, and the stopped pickup truck was an actual hazard to her safety. If she had been travelling at a slower speed and at a greater distance behind the defendant Martin, and if she had slowed her motorcycle down sooner than she did, the plaintiff could have safely avoided the defendant Martin’s motorcycle and could have safely stopped behind the pickup truck. As it was, the plaintiff’s own negligent driving made it necessary for her to take emergency evasive action, which should not have been necessary. Taking that evasive action caused the plaintiff to lose control of her motorcycle, which resulted in her injury. I find that there was a substantial connection between the negligent driving of the plaintiff, and her injury. In my opinion, the evidence establishes on the balance of probabilities that the plaintiff was contributorily negligent.

Driver Found 100% Liable for Accident Caused During Careless U-Turn


Reasons for judgement were released today by Mr. Justice Smith of the BC Supreme Court considering the issue of fault in a collision between a pick-up truck and a motorcycle.
In today’s case (Dhah v. Harris) the Plaintiff was driving his motorcycle northbound on River Road in Delta, BC.  As he was coming into the second turn of an ‘s-curve’ a pick up truck was making a U-Turn from the Southbound lane into the Northbound lane.  Approaching this truck the motorcyclist hit his brakes ‘pretty hard’, dropped his bike and then slid into the side of the pickup truck.
The driver of the pick up truck did not see the Plaintiff and only realized he was there upon impact.  Similarly the motorcyclist did not appreciate that the pick up truck was there until it was too late to avoid the collision.  There was no evidence that the motorcyclist was speeding.
Both driver’s claimed the other was at fault.  After a 3 day trial Mr. Justice Smith found the pick-up truck driver 100% at fault.  In coming to this conclusion he provided the following summary and application of the law relating to U-Turn collisions:

[22] I find it highly unlikely that the defendant was moving at the extremely slow speed that that would imply. I find it more likely that the defendant was focussed on the tightness of the turn and the need to avoid the ditch across the road and that he failed to pay sufficient attention to situation to his right. Either he allowed more time than he now recalls to elapse between looking right and beginning his turn or he simply failed to notice the plaintiff who was there to be seen.

[23] Even if the defendant was turning at an extremely slow speed and the plaintiff was not there to be seen when the defendant began his turn, the plaintiff obviously would have come into view at some point before the collision. On the defendant’s own evidence, he did not look to his right again before he crossed the double solid centre line.

[24] It is a matter of common knowledge that roads are typically marked with a double solid line at locations where drivers will have reduced visibility of the road ahead. Sections 155 (1)(a) and 156 of the Motor Vehicle Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 318, read as follows:

155  (1) Despite anything in this Part, if a highway is marked with

(a) a solid double line, the driver of a vehicle must drive it to the right of the line only,

156  If the driver of a vehicle is causing the vehicle to enter or leave a highway and the driver has ascertained that he or she might do so with safety and does so without unreasonably affecting the travel of another vehicle, the provisions of sections 151 and 155 are suspended with respect to the driver while the vehicle is entering or leaving the highway.

[25] Counsel for the defendant argues that the defendant reasonably concluded that he could safely enter the roadway and was leaving enough distance for oncoming vehicles to adjust to his presence. He argues that the effect of s. 156, in those circumstances, is that once the defendant entered the roadway, other drivers including the plaintiff were required to “accommodate” his position. In effect, counsel argues that if the defendant determined on reasonable grounds that he could safely cross the centre line, he acquired the right of way from the moment he entered the roadway.

[26] I cannot accept that submission. Section 155(1)(a), standing alone, contains an outright prohibition against crossing a double solid line. Section 156 does no more than provide limited exceptions to that absolute prohibition. It does not, in my view, diminish the duty to proceed with caution and it does not remove the right of way from another driver who is approaching in his or her proper lane.

[27] In any event, the question of whether or not the defendant was in violation of the statutory provision is not determinative. The question is whether the defendant kept a proper lookout and took appropriate care in the circumstances:  Dickie Estate v. Dickie and De Sousa (1991), 5 B.C.A.C. 37 (C.A.).

[28] In Dickie, the plaintiff was in the process of making a u-turn across a double solid line when he was struck by the defendant who was approaching at an excessively high speed. The Court of Appeal said at para. 12:

[The plaintiff] was engaging in a manoeuvre that was fraught with danger. He placed himself and the oncoming drivers in a position of risk. That being so, in my opinion, the law required of him a very high degree of care which would manifest itself in a sharp lookout before he crossed over the solid double line into the northbound lanes on the causeway. There was nothing to prohibit Dickie from seeing the oncoming De Sousa vehicle before his vehicle entered the northbound lanes of travel.

[29] I find that the defendant in this case was similarly “engaging in a manoeuvre that was fraught with danger”. He was making a left turn across a double solid line at a point where there was no intersection or driveway—at a point where oncoming drivers would have no reason to anticipate vehicles entering the roadway. He knew there was a curve to his right and knew or ought to have known that oncoming drivers might have limited visibility. The location and the nature of his manoeuvre required him to pay particular attention to the ditch across the road and I have found that he did so at the expense of being attentive to oncoming traffic.

[30] I also note that the Court in Dickie referred to the need for a sharp lookout before the driver crossed the centre line and before he entered the northbound lanes. In the circumstances of this case, it was not sufficient for the defendant to form an opinion about the safety of his manoeuvre before he entered the roadway. He says that he looked right at that point, but, in my view, his duty to keep a sharp lookout continued beyond that. He gave no evidence of having looked again before crossing the centre line; in my view, reasonable prudence required that he should have done so.

[31] Therefore, I find that the collision at issue was caused by the negligence of the defendant. The question then becomes whether there was any contributory negligence on the part of the plaintiff.

Mr. Justice Smith went on to give reasons explaining why he found the Plaintiff faultless for this crash holding that “the Plaintiff was entitled to proceed on the assumption that all other vehicles will do what it is their duty to do, namely observe the rules regulating traffic”.  Paragraphs 32-37 of the reasons for judgement are worth reviewing for the Court’s full discussion of why this Plaintiff was faultless.

ICBC Injury Claims and Fault

If a Court finds that 2 or more people are responsible for a motor vehicle collision in British Columbia the Court must ‘apportion’ liability as between them.  How does the court do this?  What factors are considered when determining the percentage of blame to put on each at fault party?  
Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court (Mills v. Seifred) addressing this topic. 
Today’s case involved a tragic accident between a motorcycle and a dump truck on September 1, 2005 in Langley, British Columbia.  The truck turned in front of the motorcycle driver.  It appears, based on the style of cause, that the motorcycle driver was killed as a result of this impact.
The court found that the motorcyclist was careless and contributed to the collision.  He was travelling in a 60 kmph zone and the court found that he was travelling some 90 kmph at the time of impact.  The court determined that this contributed to the collision because “speed removes options for effective collision avoidance manoeuvres….there can be no doubt that (the Plaintiff’s) excessive speed played a causative role in the occurrence of the accident“.
The court also found that the Dump Truck Driver was careless because he ‘did not take sufficient time or care to keep a sharp lookout at the on coming traffic just before committing to the left turn.’
In determining that the Dump Truck driver was 65% to blame for the crash and the Plaintiff 35% the Court summarized and applied the law as follows:

[97]            Where, as here, the fault of two or more persons combine to cause a loss, liability will be apportioned.  Apportionment is governed by the Negligence Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 333.  The relevant provisions are set out below:

s.1 Apportionment of liability for damages

(1)        If by the fault of 2 or more persons damage or loss is caused to one or more of them, the liability to make good the damage or loss is in proportion to the degree to which each person was at fault.

(2)        Despite subsection (1), if, having regard to all the circumstances of the case, it is not possible to establish different degrees of fault, the liability must be apportioned equally.

(3)        Nothing in this section operates to make a person liable for damage or loss to which the person’s fault has not contributed.

s.4 Liability and right of contribution

(1)        If damage or loss has been caused by the fault of 2 or more persons, the court must determine the degree to which each person was at fault.

s.6 Questions of fact

In every action the amount of damage or loss, the fault, if any, and the degrees of fault are questions of fact.

[98]            In assessing apportionment, the court examines the extent of blameworthiness, that is, the degree to which each party is at fault, and not the degree to which each party’s fault has caused the loss.  Put another way, the court is not assessing degrees of causation, rather, it is assessing degrees of fault: Cempel v. Harrison Hot Springs Hotel Ltd., [1997] 43 B.C.L.R. (3d) 219, 100 B.C.A.C. 212 [Cempel]; Aberdeen v. Langley (Township), 2007 BCSC 993 [Aberdeen]; reversed in part, Aberdeen v. Zanatta, 2008 BCCA 420. 

[99]            In Alberta Wheat Pool v. Northwest Pile Driving Ltd., [2000] 80 B.C.L.R. (3d) 153, 2000 BCCA 505, Finch, J.A. (now the Chief Justice), for the majority of the Court of Appeal, explained this important principle at paras. 45-47:

In my view, the test to be applied here is that expressed by Lambert, J.A. in Cempel, supra, and the court’s task is to assess the respective blameworthiness of the parties, rather than the extent to which the loss may be said to have been caused by the conduct of each.

Fault or blameworthiness evaluates the parties’ conduct in the circumstances, and the extent or degree to which it may be said to depart from the standard of reasonable care.  Fault may vary from extremely careless conduct, by which the party shows a reckless indifference or disregard for the safety of person or property, whether his own or others, down to a momentary or minor lapse of care in conduct which, nevertheless, carries with it the risk of foreseeable harm.

[100]        In Aberdeen, Groves J. provided insight into the difficulty that the court faces in quantifying the concept of blameworthiness under the Negligence Act.  At para. 62 he endorsed the enumeration of factors in assessing relative degrees of fault set out by the Alberta Court of Appeal in Heller v. Martens, as follows:

1.         The nature of the duty owed by the tortfeasor to the injured person…

2.         The number of acts of fault or negligence committed by a person at fault…

3.         The timing of the various negligent acts. For example, the party who first commits a negligent act will usually be more at fault than the party whose negligence comes as a result of the initial fault…

4.         The nature of the conduct held to amount to fault. For example, indifference to the results of the conduct may be more blameworthy… Similarly, a deliberate departure from safety rules may be more blameworthy than an imperfect reaction to a crisis…

5.         The extent to which the conduct breaches statutory requirements. For example, in a motor vehicle collision, the driver of the vehicle with the right of way may be less blameworthy…

[Authorities omitted.]

[101]        To the foregoing factors, Groves J. added the following at para. 67:

6.         the gravity of the risk created;

7.         the extent of the opportunity to avoid or prevent the accident or the damage;

8.         whether the conduct in question was deliberate, or unusual or unexpected; and

9.         the knowledge one person had or should have had of the conduct of another person at fault.

[102]        After surveying the authorities, Groves J. summarized at para. 67 the approach to be taken in assessing the relative degree of blameworthiness of the parties:

Thus, the key inquiry in assessing comparative blameworthiness is the relative degree by which each of the parties departed from the standard of care to be expected in all of the circumstances. This inquiry is informed by numerous factors, including the nature of the departure from that standard of care, its magnitude, and the gravity of the risk thereby created.

[103]        On appeal, the decision in Aberdeen in relation to the issue of contributory negligence was remitted for retrial.  However, the Court of Appeal did not criticize Mr Justice Groves’ careful summation of the governing legal principles on apportionment.

[104]        Mr. Cavezza continued in the oncoming lane at an excessive speed in order to pass a trail of vehicles long after the dividing line for eastbound traffic had become solid.  He persisted in doing so on his approach to the Eastbound Hill, which would have hampered his view of oncoming traffic, and after the appearance of double solid lines which would tell him that the oncoming traffic had impaired visibility his way.  He did not take advantage of the openings in the line of eastbound vehicles to merge earlier; had he done so, there would have been no accident.  Instead, Mr. Cavezza chose to merge near the brow of the Eastbound Hill and once in the lead, maintained an excessive speed.  In assessing the degree of Mr. Cavezza’s blameworthiness, I have borne in mind the fact that traffic as a whole speeds along that segment of 16th Avenue.  Even so, it cannot be overlooked that Mr. Cavezza’s deliberate conduct violated, in a substantial way, the expected standard of care of a user of that road in those circumstances.  He showed a reckless disregard for the safety of fellow users and created a substantial level of risk for himself and others.

[105]        Turning to Mr. Seifred’s fault, the law imposes upon him a very high degree of care to observe caution in crossing double solid lines.  Although he was not speeding, he did not come to a complete stop or likely even hesitate prior to crossing the oncoming lane and cut the driveway at a 45 degree angle.  Mr. Seifred travelled 16th Avenue frequently and is taken to know that speeding vehicles along that route were more the rule than the exception.  Had he kept the sharp look-out reasonably expected of him, he would have seen Mr. Cavezza advancing in the eastbound lane and would not have initiated his turn in such patently unsafe circumstances.  Mr. Seifred breached his duty to take reasonable care to a severe degree and created a grave risk for himself and a fatal one for Mr. Cavezza.  

[106]         In all the circumstances, I consider Mr. Seifred’s conduct more blameworthy than Mr. Cavezza’s.  I apportion liability 65% against Mr. Seifred and 35% against Mr. Cavezza.

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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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