Being injured in a motor vehicle accident is always a trying experience. If an accident is not your fault, you may assume that you have no liability in the accident. However, a recent decision from the Alberta Court of Appeal demonstrates that there may be a distinction between who’s fault an accident is and who is liable.
The accident at the intersection
The accident occurred at the intersection of 30th Street SE and Cotton Crescent SE in Calgary, Alberta. The appellant was operating a taxi, which entered the intersection while having the right of way. The only problem was that the respondent’s car had already entered the intersection after failing to yield to the appellant. The vehicles collided in the intersection.
The first trial
The trial judge found that although the respondent had a duty to yield to cars coming from the appellant’s direction, the appellant was speeding, making it difficult for the respondent to see the appellant’s car. The trial judge wrote,
“Now, (the respondent’s) evidence also was that when she did see the vehicle, it was travelling faster than hers and she said it was a flash. And I think the reasonable inference is that it was travelling at a substantially greater speed than her vehicle. Now, of course her duty was to keep a look out as she knows cars could come from her right and it is negligence not to see what is there to be seen.
“And I’ve also said that the likely explanation of the accident is that (the appellant) was approaching fast because the scenario where both cars approached slowly is not plausible. It is not plausible (the appellant) was going so fast that he was not visible at all. (the respondent) could see a considerable distance up the street as is apparent in the photographs. [emphasis added].”
The trial judge also made mention of the appellant’s experience as a commercial driver, and wrote it should be expected that the appellant should have checked to his left to see if there was another car there, noting it was careless to proceed without doing so.
As a result of these findings, the trial judge assigned liability to each party.
The appellant argued that the trial judge erred in finding him partially liable for the accident. He argued the trial judge should not have held that the appellant had a legal duty to yield to the respondent’s car.
The court of appeal sided with the trial judge, writing,
“In our view, the trial judge was correct in finding that (the appellant) had a legal obligation to drive as a reasonably skilled driver would in the circumstances. Longstanding authority is clear on this point, and there is no basis for this Court to impugn this authority. Johnston National Storage Ltd v Mathieson,  2 DLR 604 at 610 and 614, 1953 CanLII 403 (SCC), citing Toronto RW Co v King, 7 CRC 408 at 417,  AC 260, explained the basis for generally affording drivers the right to assume that all other vehicles will observe the traffic safety legislation: ‘Traffic in the street would be impossible if the driver of each vehicle did not proceed more or less upon the assumption that the drivers of all the other vehicles will do what it is their duty to do, namely, observe the rules regulating the traffic of the streets.’”
The court’s decision means that while drivers are entitled to assume other users of the road will be obeying the rules, there are a number of different rules at play in most situations, and an accident will often see each party breaking one of the rules, though perhaps different ones from one another.
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Our litigators have significant years of experience in the courtroom, and have successfully argued hundreds of cases on behalf of our clients. We are dedicated to getting our clients the best possible result, whether through a negotiated or mediated settlement, or by taking a case all the way to trial.
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