09 May Pedestrian Struck By Vehicle in a Crosswalk

When a pedestrian is struck in a crosswalk, what laws come into play?  Section 179 of the Motor Vehicle Act is the statute that governs the rights of way between pedestrians and motor vehicles. The relevant sections of that provision reads:

179         (1) Subject to section 180, the driver of a vehicle must yield the right of way to a pedestrian where traffic control signals are not in place or not in operation when the pedestrian is crossing the highway in a crosswalk and the pedestrian is on the half of the highway on which the vehicle is travelling, or is approaching so closely from the other half of the highway that he or she is in danger.

(2) A pedestrian must not leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close it is impracticable for the driver to yield the right of way.

There is also a common-law duty to avoid a foreseeable risk of harm to oneself.  So although a pedestrian who has the right-of-way is entitled to assume that others will act lawfully, they cannot ignore the risk that others may not do so and place themselves in danger.

In the case of Gulati v. Chan, 2015 BCSC 431, the Plaintiff was struck by a motor vehicle as she was walking in a marked cross-walk.  The Plaintiff suffered a number of injuries, including a broken arm, soft-tissue injuries, a concussion, hearing loss and depression.  The Plaintiff said she looked to her right and left before entering the crosswalk. At that time, she did not see any traffic coming in her direction. When she was approximately half way across the crosswalk she saw the Defendant’s vehicle approaching the nearby intersection that was controlled by stop signs. To the Plaintiff’s surprise, the vehicle did not stop at the stop sign but instead turned left and struck her while she was in the crosswalk.  The Plaintiff’s version of events was confirmed by a witness.

The Defendant acknowledged that his vehicle struck the Plaintiff but asserted she was partially at fault for the accident.  He said that his vehicle was clearly visible to the Plaintiff and that she had the duty to avoid the foreseeable risk that it posed to her safety.   The Defendant argued that by proceeding into the crosswalk in the manner that she did, the Plaintiff negligently placed her well-being in jeopardy and so she should be found to be partially responsible for the accident.

The Judge accepted the Plaintiff’s evidence with respect to how the accident occurred. He was satisfied that the Defendant was not paying attention when he was driving and that he did not bring his vehicle to a stop when he should have. Instead, without any notice or warning to the Plaintiff who was legally crossing the road, the Defendant proceeded through the stop sign and turned left, leaving the Plaintiff with no time to avoid the collision. The Judge held that it was not unreasonable for the Plaintiff to believe that the Defendant’s vehicle would stop at the stop sign and that a reasonable person would not have anticipated his decision to breach the rules of the road in the manner that he did. The Judge found the Defendant 100 percent liable for the accident.

Even though the pedestrian in this case was not at fault, she suffered serious injuries.  This is often the case in pedestrian accidents.  At Acheson Sweeney Foley Sahota, we have extensive experience representing injured pedestrians.  If you are struck in a crosswalk, please give us a call.