06 May Liability of Left-Turning Vehicle on Late Amber or Early Red Light

The key issue in Swieczko v. Nehme, 2016 BCSC 399, was liability, or in other words “who was at fault for the motor vehicle accident”.  In this case the question was who is responsible when a left turning vehicle is trying to clear the intersection on an amber or early red light, and it is hit by a vehicle coming through the intersection?

In this case the Plaintiff was in the left turn lane.  She had pulled into the intersection and was waiting for the traffic to clear. The vehicles in the oncoming lane closest to the Plaintiff had stopped at the light, and the Plaintiff proceeded to make her left hand turn to clear the intersection as the light turned from amber to red. As she was in the process of her left turn the Defendant, who was travelling in the oncoming curb lane, attempted to go through the intersection and T-boned the Plaintiff’s vehicle on the passenger side.

Each of the parties claimed that the other was 100% at fault. The trial involved a detailed examination of the circumstances of the accident, including the testimony of the witnesses regarding what color the lights were and who had the right of way.

The Motor Vehicle Act states that vehicles turning left must yield to oncoming vehicles that are so close as to constitute an immediate hazard, but once the flow of traffic has cleared and the vehicle has safely commenced their left hand turn, it is the oncoming vehicle that now must yield.

The Defendant testified that the light was still green or amber when she entered the intersection, and that the Plaintiff had turned in front of her as she was proceeding through the intersection.

At trial, the Court found that the light was likely a late amber or early red, and the Defendant was required to stop and allow the Plaintiff to clear the intersection. The Defendant was 100% responsible for the accident. The Plaintiff, as the left turning driver, was entitled to proceed with her left turn on the assumption that the Defendant would stop for the light. The Defendant’s failure to yield to the left turning vehicle caused the accident.

It is common in instances such as this for injured persons to be told by ICBC that they are 100% at fault.  In fact, this might not be the case.  Contact Acheson Sweeney Foley Sahota.  Our firm knows that the situation requires a comprehensive examination of the circumstances of the accident, the timing of the lights and the position of the vehicles prior to impact.