In a British Columbia decision, a court found a driver liable for a car accident after he suffered an epileptic seizure while driving.
Car Accident Caused by Driver’s Epilepsy
On March 29, 2014, a taxi driver was driving southbound across a bridge in New Westminster, B.C. with a passenger in the back seat. Neither the taxi driver nor the passenger were wearing seatbelts.
At the same time, another driver was driving northbound on the same bridge, with a friend in the front passenger seat. The driver suffers from epilepsy and, as he reached the crest of the south side of the bridge, he suffered a grand mal seizure, crossed through the yellow plastic pylons that separated the north and south bound lanes, and struck the taxi.
The taxi driver suffered a head injury and his passenger became paraplegic. The driver’s passenger also suffered a series of injuries.
All injured parties sued the driver, based on the allegation that he was not taking his medication contrary to medical advice and should have known he should not have been driving and should have foreseen a grand mal seizure.
The driver responded by claiming that the taxi driver and his passenger were contributorily negligent because they did not wear seat belts. He also accused the taxi driver of speeding and other behaviour that contributed to the accident.
Court Finds Driver Liable for Accident
After reviewing the evidence, the court had no doubt as to the liability of the driver, stating:
“There is no question that [the driver] was negligent and is at fault for the collisions. He knew he should be taking his medication. He was warned that he should not be driving if he was not fully compliant with his medication. Yet he drove, particularly on a day when he had already had a focal seizure. It seemed during his testimony that [the driver] was not overly concerned with the accident; it was the effect of the accident on his appreciation of the seriousness of his condition that pre-occupied him.
It is unnecessary to repeat the arguments made by the plaintiffs. I accept that [the driver] should not have been driving, and knew or should have known he should not have been driving. Had he been compliant with his medication, it is unlikely that he would have had the grand mal seizure.”
As a result, the court found that the driver had been negligent and was at fault for the collision.
Turning to the taxi driver’s behaviour, the court first found that there was no evidence that his choice of bridge, choice of lane, and/or excessive speed had prevented him taking reasonable evasive action to avoid the accident. As a result, the court dismissed these claims against the taxi driver.
Finally, the court turned to the driver’s claim that the taxi driver and his passenger were contributorily negligent by not wearing seatbelts, which the court framed as:
“The issue is: did each of [them] fail to take reasonable precautions to protect himself from the consequences of the [the driver]’s negligence?”
The court stated that both the taxi driver and his passenger had taken a risk by not wearing a seat belt, which a reasonably prudent person would do. While the court acknowledged that both men would have likely suffered injuries even with a seat belt, it found that the severity of their injuries could have been lessened with a seat belt.
As a result, the court found the taxi driver to be 10% contributorily negligent for failing to wear a seatbelt and set his passenger’s contributory negligence at 15%.
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