Carfra Lawton LLP | Victoria BC

Court of Appeal Rules Plaintiff 60% Liable for Failing to Activate Hazard Lights

In Langille v Marchant 2014 BCCA 430 at around midnight the plaintiff was involved in a motor vehicle accident which left her vehicle stopped in the middle of three lanes of a bridge. After the accident, the plaintiff stopped her vehicle, turned it off and got out to speak with the other driver. The plaintiff left her running lights on, but did not activate her hazard lights. A few minutes after the first collision, while the plaintiff was outside her vehicle, it was rear ended by the defendant’s vehicle.

At trial, the court found that the defendant’s inattention contributed to the severity of the collision but also found that the plaintiff was negligent in leaving only her running lights on in the middle of a busy bridge where one would not expect vehicles to be stopped. The plaintiff was negligent for not activating her emergency hazard lights and for not moving her vehicle to the curb lane. Both actions were considered reasonable and prudent and consistent with the duty to minimize risk of hazards to other drivers. At trial the court found the plaintiff 60% at fault and the defendant 40% at fault.

The court of appeal upheld the trial finding. In reaching this conclusion, the court found that it was unreasonable to expect the vehicle to be moved to the curb lane, but found that the failure to activate her emergency hazard lights was negligent. The court stated that the activation of the emergency hazard lights would have made the plaintiff’s vehicle more visible and made it harder on the defendant to fail to notice its presence.

The primary responsibility to avoid a rear end collision almost always rests with the approaching driver. This case is unusual because the driver who rear ended the plaintiff was found less blameworthy for the accident, while the plaintiff whose vehicle was stopped was found more blameworthy.

Case summary by: Fareeha Qaiser