In the usual course, a driver who rear-ends another vehicle will be found at fault for the accident. It is only in exceptional circumstances that the driver who was rear ended will be liable such as when he/she made a sudden, unexpected and unexplained stop.

In Bains v. Chatakanonda 2018 BCSC 2412, the claimant was injured in a motor vehicle accident when she rear-ended the defendant. At the time, the defendant was stopped partially on a traffic island waiting to turn left into an alleyway. The front driver-side corner of the injured claimant’s vehicle struck the rear passenger-side corner of the defendant’s vehicle. At trial, she argued that the defendant was at fault for stopping without warning and for intending to turn left from a location where it could not be done in safety.

The trial judge dismissed the claim finding the injured claimant at fault for following the defendant too closely resulting in the rear end accident. In doing so, the trial judge found that the defendant had ascertained it was safe to slow down and stop while waiting to turn left safely on the following basis:

  • he was familiar with the left turn and knew it could be done safely having done so for several years prior along with a number of his neighbours;
  • in planning the left turn, he was driving relatively slow leading up to stopping on the traffic island;
  • he had his left turn signal on and it was operating properly; and
  • he braked for a proper safety reason (waiting for a pedestrian) and his brake lights were operating properly.

The injured claimant appealed (Bains v. Chatakanonda 2019 BCCA 381) arguing that the defendant was at fault for 2 reasons. First, he failed to ascertain it was safe to make the left turn from the traffic island. Second, he failed to ascertain that the left turn could be made without unreasonably affecting traffic.

The BC Court of Appeal found no evidence to suggest the defendant did anything out of the ordinary that would not have been expected by a prudent driver following from a safe distance and safe speed. In dismissing the appeal, the BC Court of Appeal upheld the finding of the trial judge that the defendant’s car was “there to be seen, stopped with a signal and brake lights illuminated”.

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