08 May Single Vehicle Accidents

In most motor vehicle injury cases the injured party is struck by another vehicle. However some cases, such as Gaebel v. Lipka, 2016 BCSC 2391, involve a single vehicle accident.  The Plaintiff passenger, Mr. Gaebel, alleged that the Defendant driver of the vehicle, Mr. Lipka, was negligently driving when the vehicle went off the road before launching into the air and rolling.

In single vehicle accident cases, the Plaintiff must prove that the accident was caused because the Defendant driver did not meet the standard expected of a prudent driver in the circumstances. The Court will look at the road conditions and whether the Defendant’s speed was commiserate with that of a prudent driver. Even if the speed was below the speed limit it may still be too fast for the road conditions, making a driver liable for the injuries caused to their passenger.

In this particular case, the accident occurred on a gravel logging road. Apart from some standing water and loose gravel on the shoulder, there was nothing to indicate that the road conditions were hazardous. The accident occurred as the Defendant moved the vehicle over to the right shoulder while rounding a curve on the logging road. The Defendant testified that it was his practice to move over to the shoulder when going around a corner in case a logging truck was coming in the opposite direction.  The Plaintiff alleged that moving over to the shoulder where the road was wet, was an unnecessary and unsafe maneuver and fell below the standard of care.

The main issue in the case was whether the Defendant’s decision to move over to the shoulder while driving 70 km/h in these conditions fell below the requisite standard of care.

The Judge held that there was no evidence that driving 70 km/h on the road was unsafe. It was not raining and visibility was good. There was no evidence to suggest any mechanical or other problem with the vehicle. The Judge further held that moving over to the shoulder is a prudent maneuver on a gravel road and accords with common sense about how to drive on any gravel road which is not wide enough to accommodate two vehicles side by side. She stated that in her view “this situation was a true accident where no one can be held at fault for the vehicle rolling over. I am not satisfied on a balance of probabilities that Mr. Lipka’s speed was unsafe for the road conditions on that day”.

These cases require expertise to assess whether or not they should be taken to trial.  At Acheson Sweeney Foley Sahota, we have that expertise.  Please contact us if you are involved in a single vehicle accident.