Tag: rear end accident

Defendant 75% at Fault for Crash Despite Being Rear Ended

Although not common, motorists can be found partly or even wholly at fault after being involved in a rear-end collision.  Such a result was demonstrated in reasons for judgement released earlier this month by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry.
In the recent case (Stanikzai v. Bola) the Plaintiff rear-ended the Defendant’s vehicle.  The Court was presented with competing versions of how the collision occurred but ultimately accepted the evidence of an independent witness who confirmed the Defendant “quickly” moved into the Plaintiff’s lane as we was attempting a U-turn in front the the Plaintiff’s vehicle.  In finding the Defendant 75% at fault for the resulting impact Mr. Justice Smith provided the following reasons:

] The only independent witness called was Mr. Tiwana, a truck driver who was behind the plaintiff in the left lane. Like the plaintiff, he described the defendant’s van moving into the right lane, then quickly attempting a u-turn in front of the plaintiff’s vehicle, leaving the plaintiff no time to react. However, one significant difference between the plaintiff’s evidence and that of Mr. Tiwana is that Mr. Tiwana said he saw the left turn signal on the defendant’s vehicle before what he described as the attempted u-turn.

[7] There is no doubt that when one vehicle hits another from behind, the onus is on the driver of the rear vehicle to show that the collision was not caused by his or her fault: Barrie v Marshall, 2010 BCSC 981. A driver following other vehicles is expected to keep his vehicle under sufficient control to be able to deal with sudden stopping or slowing of the vehicle in front: Pryndik v. Manju, 2001 BCSC 502.

[8] But while liability for a rear end collision usually rests entirely with the following driver, that is not an invariable result. For example, in Saffari v Lopez, 2009 BCSC 699, both drivers were found to be equally at fault for a rear end collision. In that case, the front driver stopped or slowed suddenly, ostensibly to retrieve a fallen cigarette, but the court found that the rear driver was travelling either too fast or too close behind to stop when confronted with the hazard.

[9] The plaintiff and the defendant in this case give conflicting evidence that cannot be reconciled. In attempting to determine what happened, on the balance of probabilities, I prefer the evidence of the only independent witness, Mr. Tiwana. He describes the defendant moving suddenly into the plaintiff’s lane in circumstances where the plaintiff did not have time to stop. That is not consistent with the defendant’s evidence of the lapse of time between her lane change and the collision and I do not accept her evidence on that point. I do accept her evidence that she had no reason to be making a u-turn and was not attempting one, but I find that her turn to the left on impact likely created the mistaken impression of a u-turn.

[10] Based on Mr. Tiwana’s description of the accident, I find that the defendant, in changing lanes, failed to notice or properly assess the position of other vehicles and failed to ensure that she had sufficient room to change lanes safely. Section 151(a) of the Motor Vehicle Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 318 reads:

151 A driver who is driving a vehicle on a laned roadway

(a) must not drive from one lane to another when a broken line only exists between the lanes, unless the driver has ascertained that movement can be made with safety and will in no way affect the travel of another vehicle,

[11] I therefore find that the accident was caused or contributed to by the negligence of the defendant. However, on the basis of Mr. Tiwana’s evidence, the plaintiff must also bear some responsibility because he failed to see the defendant’s turn signal. Although the defendant’s move was a sudden one, seeing her turn signal would likely have given the plaintiff an earlier opportunity to either apply his brakes or to at least use his horn to warn the defendant of his presence.

[12] Because it was the defendant who created the dangerous situation, I find that she must bear the greater share of blame and apportion liability 75 per cent to the defendant and 25 per cent to the plaintiff.

$50,000 Pain and Suffering Awarded for Soft Tissue Injuries with Chronic Pain

Note: The case discussed in the below entry was overturned by the BC Court of Appeal with respect to the Diminished Earning Capacity Award on March 18, 2010.  You can read my post on the BCCA’s decision by clicking here.
Reasons for judgement were released today compensating a Plaintiff for injuries and losses sustained in a 2004 car accident.
The Plaintiff was driving her daughter to pre-school when her vehicle was rear-ended. The impact was ‘sudden and relatively severe‘ and caused enough damage to render the Plaintiff’s vehicle a write-off.
The court heard from a variety of medical ‘expert witnesses’ and placed the most weight on the Plaintiff’s GP. The court found that the Plaintiff ‘now has chronic pain with her soft tissue injuries and that pain and discomfort, in varying levels depending on activity level, will continue indefenately.’ The court also found that the Plaintiff suffers from ‘anxiety associated witht he accident’ and that ‘(she) is at risk of premature arthritis in her cervical spine and left shoulder‘.
In awarding $50,000 for the Plaintiff’s non-pecuniary loss (pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) the court noted that:

[14] The injuries have affected the plaintiff’s family relationships. She is not able to participate in normal physical family and recreational activities to the same extent as before the accident. She cannot perform housework or garden to the same extent. She presents as a perfectionist and is clearly bothered by these restrictions on activities that she enjoys and takes pride in.

[15] (The Plaintiff) is also anxious and, perhaps, somewhat depressed; her relationship with her husband has been adversely affected, and she is naturally concerned and upset that her children now turn more naturally to their father for physical support and comfort. In addition to the ongoing pain and discomfort that restricts general activities, these factors also affect enjoyment of life. I take them into account in determining a fit award for non-pecuniary loss.

The most interesting part of this judgement for me was the court’s discussion of loss of earning capacity. Here the court found that the Plaintiff does have permanent injuries but that these will have ‘slight, if any, actual impact on her future earnings‘.
What interested me was the courts comments trying to reconcile to seemingly opposed lines of authority from the BC Court of Appeal addressing loss of future earnings. When one asks for an award for ‘loss of future income’ or ‘loss of earning capacity’ one has to prove this loss. There are various ways of doing this at trial.
Here the Plaintiff advanced a claim of loss of earning capacity using the ‘capital asset approach‘ as set out by our Court of Appeal in Pallos v. ICBC. The Defence lawyer argued that a subsequent case (Steward v. Berezan) overruled the law as set out in Pallos.
After listening to this debate the court noted that:
44] With respect, it is not clear, as I understand Steward, how one gets to the capital asset approach without first proving a substantial possibility of future income loss in relation to the plaintiff’s position at the time of trial. I cannot reconcile that approach with the factors first listed in Brown, later summarized in Palmer, and finally approved in Pallos in the passages set out earlier in my reasons.

[45] It would be helpful if the Court of Appeal has an opportunity to address these issues fully. I observe that the Court of Appeal since held in one decision that Steward turned on its facts and did not create any new principle of law. The court also affirmed Parypa in the same decision. See Djukic v. Hahn, 2007 BCCA 203, at paras. 14 and 15.

Here the court held that “there is no reference in Steward to Pallos. Steward, in my view, does not over rule Pallos‘.
Mr. Justice Macaulay went on to reconcile the apparent conflict between these cases by concluding that Steward should be limited to its own ‘narrow factual circumstances‘ and awarding the Plaintiff damages based on the less stingent ‘capital asset approach‘.

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ERIK
MAGRAKEN

Personal Injury Lawyer

When not writing the BC Injury Law Blog, Erik is the managing partner at MacIsaac & Company, based in Victoria, B.C. He is also involved with combative sports regulatory issues and authors the Combat Sports Law Blog.

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