After a collision occurs it is not uncommon for the parties involved to disagree as to how the crash happened and who is at fault. If there are no independent witnesses to a crash it can be difficult to decide which version is more believable. When these cases go to trial it is vital to give evidence in a consistent, reliable and credible way otherwise the Court may discount what you have to say. Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Cranbrook Registry, dealing with the topic of credibility.
In today’s case (Tierney v. GMAC Leaseco Corporation) the Plaintiff was injured in a motorcycle collision in 2005 in Kimberley, BC. The Plaintiff lost control of his motorcycle and struck a building located on the opposite side of the road from his proper lane of travel. He claimed that the Defendant was at fault for the crash because the Defendant (who was driving a vehicle in the opposite direction of travel) “cut into the corner on his side of the road forcing him to take evasive action by turning sharply.”
The Defendant disagreed arguing that she never came into the Plaintiff’s lane of travel, rather the Plaintiff simply lost control and was responsible for his own injuries. There were no independent witnesses who could satisfactorily comment on how the crash happened leaving the Court to pick between the Plaintiff’s and Defendant’s evidence. Ultimately Mr. Justice McEwan preferred the Defendant’s evidence and dismissed the lawsuit. The Plaintiff’s evidence was at times “uncertain“, “conflicting” and “contradictory“. These were some of the reasons which caused the Court to prefer the Defendant’s version of events. In dismissing the lawsuit the Court held as follows:
 The absence of physical evidence, and the unreliability of the various witnesses, including irreconcilable contradictions in the evidence, leaves the court to weigh what it has. This is not a case where both parties are implicated and it is not possible to discern the degree to which each is responsible, leading to an equal split in liability. For the plaintiff to succeed, the court must accept his evidence that, first, he intended to turn right at the curve and second, that the defendant was in his lane at that point. His own evidence and the surrounding evidence and circumstances suggest it is unlikely that his intention at the time was to go up to the highway.
 The defendant on the other hand, gives a straightforward story of proceeding from the highway to the curve on Jennings Avenue, having made a recent right turn. She had had little opportunity to accelerate as she approached the curve. She was not preoccupied or distracted. Her evidence is unreliable in the aftermath of the realization that her vehicle was in danger of colliding with the plaintiff’s motorcycle, but not in respect to the details leading up to the event..
 I do not think it is possible to say what happened with complete confidence, although I think the defendant’s version of events more likely. What that means for the plaintiff is that he has failed to carry the burden of proof that, on a balance of probabilities, the defendant’s negligence was the cause of the accident. This means, accordingly, that the plaintiff’s action is dismissed.
While there are no novel legal principles arising out of this decision, this case is worth reviewing in full for anyone involved in an ICBC case where credibility will play a crucial role to see the types of facts a Court can take into account when weighing two different versions to a motor vehicle collision. For more on this topic you can click here to read my archived posts discussing credibility in ICBC claims.