BC Supreme Court assigns liability in rear-end vehicle collision at Surrey intersection

The court found that the failure to adjust speed and maintain a safe distance caused the accident

BC Supreme Court assigns liability in rear-end vehicle collision at Surrey intersection

In a recent ruling, the BC Supreme Court has apportioned liability in a rear-end vehicle collision at an intersection in Surrey, BC, finding that the failure to adjust speed and maintain a safe distance caused the accident.

The dispute in Heffernan v Chahal, 2024 BCSC 769, stemmed from two motor vehicle accidents that affected plaintiff Richard Heffernan. The trial specifically addressed the first accident, which occurred in 2018 between Heffernan and defendant Navdeep Chahal, where liability issues were disputed.

The accident occurred in clear weather on dry roads at the T-intersection of 152 Street and 82 Avenue in Surrey, BC. According to testimonies, Chahal's Mustang struck the rear centre of Heffernan’s van. While the defendants in a later accident in January 2020 accepted liability, Chahal did not admit liability for the 2018 incident.

The case hinged on the events immediately preceding the collision. Heffernan asserted that he was making a right turn at the intersection after ensuring it was safe to proceed when Chahal’s vehicle collided with him from behind. Conversely, Chahal contended that he was following another car slowing to turn right and did not foresee Heffernan’s turn, claiming that Heffernan turned right on a red light without ensuring it was safe.

The Supreme Court analyzed the evidence and the credibility of witnesses, finding some inconsistencies in Heffernan’s testimony but generally deemed it credible.

The legal framework for the decision included a thorough review of the drivers' actions at the time of the accident, traffic conditions, and obligations under the Motor Vehicle Act. BC law mandates that drivers exercise reasonable care and pay attention to the road and other users.

The court found that the collision did not occur at the intersection as Chahal claimed but past it in the curb lane, indicated by the damage on Heffernan’s vehicle and both vehicles' final resting positions. The court determined that Chahal did not adjust his speed or maintain a safe distance, significantly contributing to the collision.

The ruling assigned 90 percent of the liability to Chahal, highlighting his significant failure to meet the care standard. It attributed 10 percent of the liability to Heffernan, whose decision to turn on a red light was a minor factor in causing the accident. Ultimately, the court emphasized the importance of vigilance and strict adherence to traffic laws and signals, especially in busy intersections.

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