Overtaking vehicles involved in accidents

This page discusses assessment of liability in accidents that occur when vehicles are being overtaken.


In Samograd v. Collison, 1995 CanLII 708 (BCCA) the plaintiff was riding a motorcycle on the Island Highway just south of Campbell River when he overtook the defendant who was driving a motorcar. The plaintiff motorcyclist did not notice that the motorcar’s left turn light was on signaling that the defendant intended to turn left. Although the defendant looked in his rear-view mirror before turning left, he did not look in his side mirror before he commenced his turn and so did not see the motorcyclist overtaking. The defendant commenced his left turn and the two vehicles collided. Neither driver was speeding or driving in any other obviously foolish way.


I am of the opinion that the concept of dominant and servient driver, which is derived from the statutory rules of the road, has no application on the facts of this case and the learned judge erred when he concluded the appellant was, as a matter of law, under a greater obligation than was the respondent.

(Samograd v. Collison, 1995 CanLII 708 at para. 11 (BCCA)).


The court held that the drivers should be found equally responsible for the accident:


There is not a word in the Motor Vehicle Act imposing any duty to yield in the circumstances which occurred in this case. On that footing, it follows that the learned trial judge erred when he said "the greater obligation is on the overtaking vehicle to ensure it can do so in safety".


There being an error in law on the part of the learned trial judge, it is open to this Court to consider afresh the apportionment of liability.


Having done so, I am of the opinion that this is what might be called a classic case for the application of s. 1 of the Negligence Act, RSBC 1979, c. 298. Neither driver was foolish or irresponsible, but each, on the findings of the learned judge, was, by omission, guilty over a very brief space of time of failing to take reasonable care ─ the appellant of himself and the respondent of the appellant. I would apportion fault in this case equally between the parties.


(Samograd v. Collison, 1995 CanLII 708 at para. 22-24 (BCCA)).




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