Car Accidents FAQ

  • Can a driver be at fault for driving in the fast lane?

    • Yes, if her behaviour falls below the standard of what a reasonable and prudent driver would do.

    In Borgjford v. Thue the crash happened on Larson Hill on the Coquihalla Highway. The highway had three lanes. A very large B-train semi was in the right lane, travelling at 25 km/h. A semi with a 53’ trailer was passing it in the middle lane. Both had 4-way hazard lights flashing. Mrs. Boizard was driving a pick-up with a camper on the back at 80-85 km/h. She decided to pass the two semi-trucks in the left lane. Mr. Thuo came from behind, travelling much faster than the speed limit. He was in the left lane, but when he saw he could not pass he quickly changed lanes to the right lane. When he saw the B-train semi ahead he chose to hit the gas and squeeze between the B-train and the semi with trailer. Mr. Thuo hit the B-train.

    The judge held that Mr. Thuo was 90% at fault, and Mrs. Boizard was 10% at fault. Mrs. Boizard was at fault because a reasonable and prudent driver in her situation would have overtaken the semi as quickly as reasonably possible. A reasonable person would know that motorists often go faster than the speed limit of 110 km/h, and that so long as she was in the left lane the entire width of the highway was blocked by slow moving traffic. Mrs. Boizard’s pick up was able to go much faster, but she chose not to.

    If you have been injured in a collision, we can help. Contact us.

    Read the case: Borgjford v. Thue

  • Can a passing car be at fault for a crash even if there was no contact between the cars?

    • Yes. A driver must not pass another car unless it can be done safely.

    In Link v. ICBC the claimant was driving on a snowy highway, following two tracks left by other cars. An SUV came up fast from behind, changed into the fast lane, passed and immediately returned to the slow lane, throwing up a rooster-tail of snow that hit the claimant’s windshield. The wiper blades were unable to clear the snow. The driver instinctively touched the brakes, causing the car to fish tail and go into the ditch.

    The judge held that the passing SUV was at fault. Given the road conditions, the SUV driver should have anticipated that passing at a high speed and returning to the slow lane immediately in front of the claimant would result in a lot of snow being thrown onto the claimant. There is a very heavy onus on a passing driver to ensure the passing can be done in safety, particularly in poor road and weather conditions.

    You may have a claim for injury even if it was a single car collision. We can help. Contact us.

    Read the case: Link v. ICBC

  • Cars stopped leaving the intersection clear, I drove across the road, and was hit by a car in the curb lane that passed the stopped cars – who is at fault?

    • Each driver must take due care to assess the situation
    • If the driver crossing a multi-lane road stops and determines that no cars are an immediate hazard, he gains the right of way
    • A car that passes those stopped cars and hits the crossing car may be at fault

    In Robinson v. Lakner the defendant wanted to cross a five lane road.  The two westbound lanes closest to him were empty.  The traffic in the two closest eastbound lanes was backed up and stopped, keeping the intersection clear.  The curb lane was empty.  The stopped drivers waved him forward, and he slowly crossed the intersection.  He did not see the plaintiff, who hit him in the curb lane.  The plaintiff had moved into the curb lane six to eight car lengths away from the intersection and passed a line of stopped cars.  Her speed was 50 km/h.

    The judge decided that the plaintiff was 100% at fault.  The defendant had stopped as required before entering the intersection.  There was no immediate hazard from oncoming cars, so he gained the right of way.  The plaintiff was not paying sufficient attention and was driving without reasonable consideration for other drivers.  She was driving at an excessive speed for the traffic and visibility conditions.

    On the other hand, in Kwong v. Leonard, the defendant wanted to cross a gridlocked 4 lane road to reach the alley on the other side.  He slowly crossed the first three lanes, slowly and carefully entered the fourth lane, and was hit.  He could not see down the fourth lane because a truck blocked his view.  The plaintiff was driving in the fourth lane at 40-45 km/h.

    The judge decided that the defendant was 95% at fault.  He knew of other, less hazardous routes, but chose not to take them.  He should not have entered the plaintiff’s lane without ensuring that it was safe to do so.  The plaintiff’s degree of fault was small.  The judge said that to rule otherwise would be to require all cars travelling down a main road to slow down at every alleyway where there is heavy traffic and other traffic in the adjacent lanes.

    As you can see, it is hard to predict how fault will be decided in an individual case.  Ultimately, we need to know what each driver considered and did in the moments leading up to the collision.

    If you do not agree with ICBC’s assessment of liability in your collision, contact us.  We can help.

    Read the case:  Robinson v. Lakner

    Kwong v. Leonard

  • I passed cars on their right side, and was hit by an oncoming left-turning car – who is at fault?

    • The straight-through driver has the right-of-way, and the left-turner must yield
    • However, the straight-through driver can only pass on the right if it is safe to do so
    • Liability may be shared as each driver must take due care to assess the situation

    In Nerval v. Khehra, Nerval was trying to turn left.  Her view was blocked by a van on the other side of the intersection, also turning left.  She made her left turn and was hit by Khehra, who was passing the van on the right.  Khehra did not have her own lane, but there was plenty of room for two cars to pass.  Khehra was speeding, going considerably faster than the speed limit of 50 km/h, but less than 80 km/h.

    The Court of Appeal approved the trial decision that Nerval was 60% at fault and Khehra was 40% at fault.  The court said that the left-turner must yield to the straight-through driver.  A left turn must not be started unless it is clearly safe to do so.  It is only safe when there is no oncoming traffic that is an immediate hazard.  Nerval turned when it was not safe to do so, and she was at fault.  However, Khehra was also at fault.  She had the right to pass the van on the right, but only if she could do so safely.  Her view of the intersection was limited by the van, so she should have taken extra care while swerving around it as she should have considered that there might be left turning cars present.  By speeding though the intersection she failed to live up to her duty.

    In Smeltzer v. Merrison, Smeltzer was southbound on the road, trying to turn left ,id-block into a parkade.  A truck stopped and motioned to her to make her left turn, so she did.  Merrison was northbound, a couple of vehicles behind the truck.  She intended to turn right at the intersection ahead, using a marked right-turn lane.  Merrison pulled out to the right and passed the other cars, hitting Smeltzer when Smeltzer appeared from in front of the truck.

    Merrison’s lane was wide enough that two cars could easily drive side by side.  Despite this, the city had only painted lane dividing marks on the last 95 feet of roadway before the intersection.  The collision occurred 35 feet short of where the line began.

    The Court of Appeal held that both were equally at fault.  A car is only allowed to pass on the right if the overtaken vehicle is turning left, when passing on a laned roadway or when passing on a one-way street, if room permits.  Since the road did not have lane markings in that area, Merrison did not have the right to pass the other vehicles.  She should have realized that this was dangerous.  She failed to proceed cautiously, keeping a proper lookout.

    Smeltzer was also at fault.  She was turning left in mid block, over a solid yellow line.  She had a duty not to turn unless it was safe to do so.  She should have considered the width of the road, with the right-turn lane beginning immediately to her left, and the limitation on what she could see beyond the truck.  She should have inched out past the truck until she could see that no car was coming.

    If you do not agree with ICBC’s assessment of liability in your collision, contact us.  We can help.

    Read the cases:  Nerval v. Khehra

    Smeltzer v. Merrison

  • I pulled out from the curb, and was hit by a car that I never saw – who is at fault?

    • Each case depends on its facts – you might be 100% at fault, or the other car might be 100% at fault.

    In one of our cases, our client checked for traffic behind him, saw none, so signalled and pulled away from the curb.  He immediately started a left turn into a side street.  He was t-boned by a car that came from behind.  The other car was 100% at fault.

    Key facts were that

    1. the road was a steep, rolling hill, so cars could not be easily seen on the road;
    2. our client checked for oncoming traffic before proceeding, and there was no apparent threat posed by other vehicles travelling downhill;
    3. he did not see the other car until he already committed to making his left turn;
    4. the other driver was speeding, travelling at over 40 kph in a 30 kph zone;

    The judge decided that the movement of Mr. Thomson’s truck was one that could have been made with reasonable safety, but for the actions of Mr. Hunt.  At the time Mr. Thomson began to cross the road from his position by his driveway Mr. Hunt’s car was not so close to him as to constitute an "immediate hazard".  The manner in which Mr. Hunt controlled and operated his car could not have provided him with sufficient time to react to other vehicles that might seek to enter the road.

    The judge decided that our client’s failure to allow for the possibility of a driver proceeding at a speed that was unsafe for the road did not demonstrate any lack of reasonable care.

    If you do not agree with ICBC’s assessment of liability in your collision, contact us.  We can help.

    Read the case:  Thomson v. Hunt

  • If a driver rear-ends cars that have stopped due to their car-crash, who is at fault?

    • It depends on the degree that each driver is blameworthy for the second crash
    • The court must look at each driver’s conduct in the circumstances and decide to what degree they did not act with reasonable care.

    In Langille v. Nguyen a collision happened at night, about ¾ of the way across the Second Narrows Bridge.  Ms. Langille rear-ended a car while driving in the middle lane.  She got out and spoke to the other driver, then got back in her car to get her insurance papers.  While reaching for her glove box, she was rear-ended by a car driven by Ms. Marchant.  Ms. Marchant had crested the bridge, been distracted by some flashing red and blue lights further down the bridge, then noticed the stopped cars.  She tried to swerve and brake, but hit the Langille car.

    The judge decided that Langille was 60% at fault.  The first collision had happened one or two minutes earlier, which gave Langille enough time to take appropriate steps to avoid a second collision.  Since the closest exit was some distance away, it was reasonable to exchange information on the spot rather than drive off the bridge first.  However, Langille should have moved her car over to the side of the bridge and further away from the crest.  She should have turned on her hazard lights.  Both of those actions would have been reasonable things to do to minimize risk to other drivers.

    Marchant was 40% at fault.  She should have been paying better attention.  She took her eyes off the road to look at the lights at the north end of the bridge.  She had more passengers in her car than permitted by her "N" designation, which may have contributed to her distraction.  She may not have been intoxicated to any degree, but the wine she had drunk could have contributed to her distraction.  The Langille collision was three-quarters of the way across the bridge and had she been paying better attention she might have realized sooner that the cars were stopped, requiring her to taking action by slowing, stopping or changing lanes.

    Rear-end collision cases may look simple, but fault may not be as straightforward as it seems.  We can help.  Contact us.

    Read the case:  Langille v. Nguyen

  • Is the lead car ever at fault in a rear-end collision?

    • Generally the following car is 100% at fault in a rear-end collision.
    • In rare cases the leading car may be partly at fault.

    Yacub v. Chipman is one of the rare cases where the lead car in a rear-end collision was found to be 75% at fault.  Ms. Yacub testified that she stopped hard for a yellow light and was rear-ended.  Mr. Chipman and his passenger testified that Ms. Yacub stopped for no reason in the middle of the intersection and was hit.  Both also testified that Ms. Yacub said she had stopped because she thought a car was going to turn left in front of her.  Neither of them had seen any movement from the left turning car.

    The judge rejected Ms. Yacub’s evidence, and accepted that she had stopped in the middle of the intersection.  The location of the skid marks and debris from the cars supported this.  There was no evidence that supported any concern Ms. Yacub might have about a left turning car, so there was no excuse for her having stopped in mid-intersection.  She was in breach of the Motor Vehicle Act for having done so, and for driving without due care and attention and without reasonable consideration for the car behind her.  Mr. Chipman was following too closely, and was 25% at fault.  She was more to blame than he was because he would have no reason to think she would stop in the middle of the intersection, but she had to know that this would be unexpected for traffic following her.

    If you do not agree with ICBC’s assessment of liability in your collision, contact us.  We can help.

    Read the case:  Yacub v. Chipman

  • Who is at fault when a car turns left, colliding with a car that is trying to pass?

    • They may share the blame, depending on the facts
    • Each driver must ensure their manoeuvre can be done in safety.

    In Ekman v. Cook a line of vehicles were following a pick-up truck and horse trailer.  The truck slowed, signalled left, and began to turn into a driveway.  Just before the truck started to turn, a motorcycle pulled out to pass the line of traffic.  The motorcyclist did not see the signal lights, and the truck driver did not shoulder check or use the mirrors to check for traffic before making the turn.  They collided.

    The judge found both to be at fault.  Both failed to exercise the standard of care expected of drivers in that situation.  The truck driver should have checked behind for traffic just before turning.  The motorcyclist should have known that traffic was almost stopped for a reason, including the possibility that somebody was turning left.  He should have seen the signal lights.  If a driver is uncertain as to what is going on ahead, the driver should proceed with caution.

    The motorcyclist bore the greater blame, at 75%.

    Cases like this are very fact dependent, but we can help.  Contact us.

    Read the case:  Ekman v. Cook

  • Who is at fault when a driver crosses a painted meridian to pass stopped vehicles and hits another car?

    • The driver who crossed the painted meridian is at fault

    In Hanson v. Yun traffic was heavy.  Eastbound vehicles were stopped for a red light, and the line of traffic was several blocks long.  The claimant wanted to turn left onto the highway and travel west.  The intersection was clear, so he made his turn.  Unfortunately, the defendant chose that moment to drive over the painted meridian, pass a bus, drive through the intersection and enter the left turn lane ahead.  They collided in the intersection.

    The judge decided that the defendant was 100% at fault.  Meridians are painted on the road to prohibit drivers from driving over them in order to avoid unsafe maneuver.  The defendant should have recognized that the vehicles ahead of him were stopped for a reason, and that a vehicle could be crossing.

    If you have been injured in a collision, we can help.  Contact us.

    Read the case:  Hanson v. Yun

  • Who is at fault when a left-turning car hits an oncoming car on a yellow light?

    • Each case depends on its facts – you might be 100% at fault, or the other car might be 100% at fault.
    • Drivers are entitled to assume that other drivers will obey the rules of the road.
    • The mere presence of a left-turning car does not cast a duty on the other driver to take extra care in case something unexpected happens;
    • The left-turner need not live up to a standard of perfection and will not be blamed for failing to precisely gauge the speed or distance of oncoming traffic.

    The recent case of Henry v. Bennett considered the rules that apply to the "inherently hazardous left turn scenario".

    The through-driver had the opportunity to stop, but chose not to.  He knew that there was a car waiting to turn left, and that the light was about to turn red.  He entered the intersection at the very end of the amber light, just as it was turning red.  As he entered the intersection, he passed cars that had stopped for the light.

    The left-turning car had been stopped in the intersection waiting to turn.  She was entitled to assume that an approaching car that could safely stop for the yellow light would do so, unless it was apparent it was not stopping.  Her view of the critical part of the street was blocked by an SUV that had stopped, so she waited until her light was red before cautiously nosing forward.

    There was nothing that should have alerted her to the fact that the other driver would come through the stale amber light.  In contrast, the through-driver knew or should have known that the left-turner would be turning on the amber or red light.  He created an extremely unsafe situation in failing to stop and was 100% at fault.

    However, in another recent case, McPherson v. Lange, liability was equally divided.  In that case the left-turner was at fault for starting her turn when the through-driver was obviously not stopping.  She made her decision to turn without adequately considering the location, distance and speed of the oncoming car.  If she had kept a proper look-out, she would not have pulled in front of the other car and a collision would have been avoided.

    If you do not agree with ICBC’s assessment of liability in your collision, contact us.  We can help.

    Read the cases:  Henry v. Bennett and McPherson v. Lange

  • Are there special rules of the road for tractor-trailer units?

    • All drivers have a duty to take reasonable care to avoid collisions
    • For drivers of tractor-trailer units, this duty may require the installation of special mirrors to eliminate blind spots and "setting up" for turns in a way that minimizes the risk of harm to other users of the road

    In Lemay v. James Western Star Sterling Ltd. a large tractor-trailer unit was stopped at a light waiting to turn left.  A motorcyclist came up from behind and stopped two feet to the right on the wide roadway.  She was intending to go straight through the intersection.  When the light turned green the trucker moved his rig to the right and hit the motorcyclist.  He never saw the motorcyclist as she was in his blind spot.

    The judge decided that the trucker was mostly to blame.  He should have eliminated his blind spot by installing a special "third eye" mirror or by cleaning the small window in the lower passenger’s door.  In addition, the trucker did not set up his wide left turn in accordance with standard practice.  He should have initially signaled to the right and hogged the middle of the road prior to signalling his left turn.  He was unduly focused on another vehicle blocking the intersection.  The trucker was 80% at fault.

    The motorcyclist was 20% at fault for positioning her bike within two feet of the truck.  There was plenty of room, and she could have stopped much further away.  Of note, the judge rejected the argument that the motorcyclist should not have passed the truck on its right side.  All the vehicles she passed had their left signal lights on, and there was plenty of room along the right side of the roadway.

    Liability issues can be complex, but we can help.  Contact us.

    Read the case:  Lemay v. James Western Star Sterling Ltd.

  • I fell while riding on a bus – can I claim damages for my injuries?

    • Yes.
    • A bus driver must be reasonably prudent in driving, taking into account the nature of the passengers. Extra care must be taken when passengers are elderly, disabled or infirm.
    • The bus driver’s liability will depend on the manner of the stop, the reason for its suddenness, and whether, in all the circumstances the driving was substandard.

    In Erickson v. Sibble the bus passenger was sitting on a sideways-facing seat.  She was not holding onto a stanchion.  When the bus braked suddenly to stop for a red light she was pitched forward and was injured.

    The judge decided that fault was shared.  The plaintiff should have been holding on to the stanchion since she was somewhat frail and she knew from the start that the bus driver was driving in a jerky and erratic manner.  She was 25% at fault.

    The bus driver was 75% at fault.  He was not keeping a proper lookout, so did not see the amber traffic light in time to avoid the need for a sudden and jarring stop.  There were no other circumstances, such as a pedestrian stepping in front of the bus, that would justify his jamming on the brakes.

    If you have been hurt on a bus, we can help.  Contact us.

    Read the case:  Erickson v. Sibble

  • I was hit in the right lane by a semi-trailer unit that turned right – who is at fault?

    • It depends on the facts – each drivers must keep a proper look out
    • The truck driver must drive in a way that minimizes the risk of people trying to pass on the right
    • If you hit the back of the semi, you will likely be found all or mostly at fault

    In Stewart v. Dueck, the truck driver was pulling two trailer units at 15 km/h.  He had to make a tight right hand turn.  He signalled left, moved from the slow lane into the fast lane and part-way into the left turn lane, put his hazard lights on, then signalled right and turned.  The entire manoeuvre was an arc, designed to prevent drivers from passing him while he made his turn.  When he started the turn the claimant was about 122 feet behind, travelling at 30 – 40 km/h.  Despite about 60 feet of the 72 foot truck and trailer unit passing in front of her, she failed to see the truck until she was about a dozen feet from impact.  She ran into the front wheels of the rear trailer.

    The judge decided that the car driver was completely at fault.  The truck driver had met the standard of care of a reasonably careful driver in the circumstances.  The collision happened because the car driver was not paying sufficient attention.  Where there is nothing that obstructs your vision and there is a duty to look, it is negligent not to see what is clearly visible.

    In Conklin v. Smith, the semi turned on his left turn signal, slowed down to about 5 km/h and moved almost completely over the centre line into the oncoming lane.  The motorcycle driver following behind thought the truck was going to turn left so decided to pass on the right, driving at a speed of about 45 km/h.  The truck then turned right, and the motorcycle hit it just in front of the rear wheels of the truck.

    The trial judge found the truck 75% at fault and the motorcycle 25% at fault.  The court of Appeal agreed.  Although the trucker was mostly to blame, it should have been obvious to the motorcyclist that one of the manoeuvres the truck might make was to turn right, and that the swing to the left was for the purpose of making a right turn.  To pass on the right side, at the speed he did, when he could not be certain of the trucker’s intention, was negligent.

    Cases involving passing on the right are fact dependent, but we can help.  Contact us.

    Read the cases:  Stewart v. Dueck

    Conklin v. Smith