Accidents involving pedestrians and cars, trucks, bikes, and other motorized vehicles often result in severe injuries for the person on foot. At Murphy Battista LLP, we help injured pedestrians get the treatment they need and the compensation they deserve. As a pedestrian, you are clearly more vulnerable to injury in the event of a collision, and drivers have a responsibility to take care. However, you also have obligations when it comes to taking steps to avoid road accidents. Often ICBC, on behalf of a driver, will take the position that you contributed to the accident that caused your injuries (aka contributory negligence). If you are found partially to blame for the accident, this can affect the amount of compensation you are entitled to receive.
Drivers vs. Pedestrians Responsibilities
The BC (Motor Vehicle) Act sets out the responsibilities of both driver and pedestrian when the pedestrian is in a crosswalk. Drivers are supposed to yield the right of way to pedestrians in a crosswalk, but a pedestrian must not step into the path of a vehicle if the vehicle is “so close” that the driver has little or no chance to yield the right of way. In these types of cases, the defendant driver must prove that the pedestrian (plaintiff) was negligent. But what does that mean?
To prove contributory negligence against a pedestrian, a driver has to prove that:
- taking distance into consideration, the pedestrian (as a reasonable person) should have known from the speed of the approaching vehicle that it was not going to yield;
- it would have been possible for the pedestrian to avoid being hit; and
- a reasonable person in the circumstances would have taken evasive action to avoid being hit.
Pedestrians are not required to exercise extreme caution to avoid an accident, they are required to take reasonable precautions. A pedestrian who obeys traffic signals, stops at an intersection, waits for traffic to stop, and crosses at a normal pace is entitled to assume that drivers will obey the law and yield the right of way. As a pedestrian, you don’t have to keep an eye on every stopped vehicle just in case one accelerates into the crosswalk. You are also not required to keep enough distance from every car at a crosswalk to allow for evasive action in case a vehicle suddenly becomes a danger to you. When making decisions about liability (who’s at fault for an accident), courts will look at the circumstances and decide what a reasonable pedestrian would have done.
What Constitutes Pedestrian “Inattentiveness”
One claim that we sometimes see in support of an allegation by ICBC that a pedestrian has contributed to an accident is “inattentiveness.” For example, wearing headphones while walking doesn’t necessarily mean you are inattentive. However, if you are “glued to your phone,” and oblivious to your surroundings, the story may be different. Even if you have the right of way, you need to be aware of what is going on around you. If you are not paying attention and this prevents you from noticing a car is not going to stop, or from taking steps to avoid an accident, a court might find that you were partly responsible for the accident.
Traffic laws are in place to protect pedestrians, but your first (and often best) line of defence is to protect yourself by paying attention and dressing appropriately for outdoor weather conditions, including wearing reflective clothing in low light or when visibility is poor.
What if you are inattentive?
Even if you are partly to blame for an accident that causes you injury, in British Columbia, you are still entitled to compensation for things like medical expenses and rehabilitation benefits. For more information on how BC’s no-fault benefits system works, take a look at our Layman’s Guide to ICBC Part 7 Benefits.
If you are a pedestrian and you have been injured in a road accident, you should speak to a lawyer. You are welcome to contact us for a free consultation. We will listen to your case, outline your options and answer any questions you may have about your situation.
November 12, 2015
It’s that time of year again in BC – the clocks have been turned back and, for most of us, it’s dark on our commute home. It’s also raining frequently, and soon to be snowing, depending on where you live. This impacts both visibility and braking. For pedestrians, this can…Continue Reading
Parking lots aren’t places of safety; future care claims
March 19, 2014
The Court of Appeal released reasons today in Russell v. Parks, 2014 BCCA 104, overturning the trial judge’s apportionment of liability and awarding future care costs that had been refused. The plaintiff was hit by the defendant’s vehicle in a Cranbrook strip mall parking lot. He had stepped over a small…Continue Reading
In the News
BC’s fatality laws put seniors and children at disadvantage in pedestrian accidents. Scott Stanley quoted in the Vancouver Star.
April 3, 2019
In the first quarter of 2019, six pedestrians have been fatally injured in traffic accidents in the Lower Mainland. This tragic statistic has prompted calls to increase safety measures to protect pedestrians, particularly the elderly and children. Distracted driving is once again singled out as a factor, along with speed,…Continue Reading
Disclaimer: The outcome of every legal proceeding will vary according to the facts and unique circumstances in each individual case. References to successful case results where the lawyers at Murphy Battista LLP have acted for clients are not necessarily a guarantee or indicative of future results.
Scott Stanley and Brandon Souza acted for the plaintiff in this case involved physical and psychological injuries sustained by a 49 year-old pedestrian on a sidewalk when a driver lost control while attempting to park, drove onto the sidewalk, and pinned the pedestrian against a wall. The pedestrian required three surgeries and had significant limitations with work as a teaching assistant and day-to-day living. The court awarded $1,064,682.07.
Joe Battista, Q.C. and Paul Bosco represented a pedestrian plaintiff who sustained catastrophic injuries, including a brain injury, after being struck by a drunk driver. The driver had recently left a pub, and made several brief stops, including at his home, before colliding with the plaintiff. The law up to this point was that if a patron makes it to their home, by whatever means, the establishment would no longer be liable for injuries caused by the patron, full stop. The court rejected this proposition, and found the pub partially liable for the plaintiff’s injuries. This decision effectively became the new law in BC on commercial host liability, expanding the responsibility owed by establishments, and creating a more favourable legal landscape for claimants who have been injured by intoxicated patrons.
Bill Dick and Keri Grenier acted for a plaintiff who was 17 years old when she was struck in a crosswalk by a pickup truck driven by the defendant. The plaintiff’s principal issues following the injury included ongoing dizziness, headaches, anxiety and depression. At issue was whether the plaintiff suffered a mild traumatic brain injury, and whether her ongoing complaints were related to the accident or to other psychosocial stressors in her life as alleged by ICBC. After a two week trial the Court awarded damages totalling $347,581. The judgment included damages for loss of future earning capacity of $175,000.
Kyla Taggart was 10 years old when she was struck by the defendant’s vehicle as she attempted to cross the road outside her elementary school. Kyla was in or near an unmarked crosswalk. The defendant took the position that the accident was not her fault and that Kyla’s mother was partially to blame for allowing Kyla to walk home. The Court agreed that the accident was 100% the fault of the defendant driver after accepting evidence that cars in the curb lane had stopped to allow Kyla to cross the road.