Carfra Lawton LLP | Victoria BC

Driver going the speed limit found negligent in collision with moose

Accidents involving collisions with animals can be tricky to defend. Plaintiffs are usually passengers. In a conventional two vehicle accident, a passenger usually has the benefit of being able to prove that a driver was at fault for the accident, or that liability should be split between one or more drivers. In a collision with an animal, however, the driver may have been driving prudently and the animal cannot be found at fault.

In British Columbia a plaintiff must prove a driver at fault to receive compensation, and a court cannot apportion any percentage of the blame to the animal.

In Knight v Knight 2014 BCSC 1478 a defendant driver was 100% at fault for a collision with a moose. His wife was a passenger and successfully sued him for over $3,000,000. The defendant was driving the speed limit of 100 kilometers per hour, at dusk, when a moose walked across the road and was struck. The driver failed to see the moose until he hit it. Just prior to the impact, he saw the lights of an oncoming vehicle black out and go off and then come back on again. At the time, he did not know why that happened.

The court found the driver should have been able to see the moose prior to impact – largely because the oncoming vehicle’s driver saw it. The judge rejected the defendant diver’s suggestion that he could not see the moose because of the glare from the oncoming traffic. The driver had seen a moose warning sign before the accident. The court quoted from the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia’s Learn to Drive Smart manual which gives hints to drivers about avoiding collisions with animals; including slowing down in areas with animal crossing signs. The driver was negligent in failing to slow down and failing to take any extra precautions to look out for moose.

This case demonstrates how hard it can be to defend a driver after colliding with an animal. Compensation is only available to injured passengers when the driver is at fault, and perhaps that fact alone helps to motivate courts to find a way to hold a driver at fault.

Case summary by: Christopher H. McDougall