Left Turn Inersection Crashes and the Law in BC
Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court concerning a 2005 intersection crash that occurred in the lower mainland of BC.
The Plaintiff was making a left hand turn from Hastings onto Willingdon. At the same time the Defendant was operating a vehicle coming the opposite direction on Hastings. A collision occurred. There were no independent witnesses to this crash. Both the Plaintiff and Defendant testified and as can be expected their evidence differed to several facts with each blaming the other for the crash.
Madam Justice Dardi preferred the Plaintiff’s evidence over the Defendant’s finding the Defendant testified in ‘an evasive and less straightforward manner’.
The court found that the Plaintiff was clearing the intersection on a stale yellow light and at the time the Defendant entered the intersection ‘it was not safe from him to do so on a very late stage amber or red light. He should have stopped’. The court found the Defendant 100% responsible for this intersection crash.
In reaching this decision Madam Justice Dardi summarized the law relating to left-hand turn intersection crashes as follows:
 Section 174 of the Motor Vehicle Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 318 [MVA], governs the right-of-way in situations where a driver is making a left turn:
When a vehicle is in an intersection and its driver intends to turn left, the driver must yield the right of way to traffic approaching from the opposite direction that is in the intersection or so close as to constitute an immediate hazard, but having yielded and given a signal as required by sections 171 and 172, the driver may turn the vehicle to the left, and traffic approaching the intersection from the opposite direction must yield the right of way to the vehicle making the left turn.
 An immediate hazard exists if the oncoming vehicle must make a sudden or violent avoiding action to prevent a collision: Aerabi-Boosheri v. Retallick,  B.C.J. No. 143 at para. 8.
 Section 128 of the MVA governs the duties of drivers when a traffic light turns yellow. It states, as far as is relevant, as follows:
128 (1) When a yellow light alone is exhibited at an intersection by a traffic control signal, following the exhibition of a green light,
(a) the driver of a vehicle approaching the intersection and facing the yellow light must cause it to stop before entering the marked crosswalk on the near side of the intersection, or if there is no marked crosswalk, before entering the intersection, unless the stop cannot be made in safety…
 Who has the statutory right-of-way is informative; however, it does not determine liability in an accident. Drivers with the statutory right-of-way must still exercise caution to avoid accidents where possible. In Walker v. Brownlee,  2 D.L.R. 450, Cartwright J. states at paras. 46-47:
 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,  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 [ 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.
The Plaintiff suffered from various soft tissue injuries. The court summarized the Plaintiff’s injuries at paragraph 57 as follows:
 Dr. Steinson was an impressive witness. I accept his opinion that the plaintiff has developed a myofascial pain syndrome in his neck and trapezius as a consequence of the injury in the motor vehicle accident. I also find that the episodic pain that the plaintiff continues to experience is mild to moderate. Dr. Steinson’s prognosis for the plaintiff is guarded. Based on the medical evidence, the likelihood is that the plaintiff’s symptoms will continue to improve over the next few years although there is a possibility that his episodic pain may persist further into the future
The court awarded the following damages:
(1) Non-pecuniary loss $30,000;
(2) Loss of future earning capacity $20,000;
(3) Cost of future care $2,000; and
(4) Special damages $500.