Using Dash Cam Footage to Prove Liability in Car Accidents
In a recent British Columbia case, a man involved in a car accident used dash cam footage from his own car in an attempt to prove that he was not 100% liable for the collision.
Insurer Finds Applicant 100% at Fault for Collision
On December 31, 2019, the applicant was driving westbound on 72nd Avenue in Surrey, British Columbia, and attempted to make a left turn onto 138th Street, on a yellow light. At the same time, the respondent was driving eastbound on 72nd Avenue and attempted to drive straight through the intersection. The two vehicles collided in the intersection.
The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (the “ICBC”) was the insurer for both vehicles. ICBC internally assessed that the applicant was 100% at fault for the accident.
However, the applicant claimed that the respondent should have been held solely responsible for the accident because she had enough time to stop when the light turned yellow and should not have proceeded through the intersection. The applicant further claimed that ICBC wrongly found him at fault for the accident and sought reimbursement of his $1,000 deductible.
In response, the respondent said that ICBC had correctly assessed that the applicant had been at fault because the left turning driver had the onus to ensure traffic travelling straight through the intersection would come to a stop.
Using Dash Cam Footage to Prove the Claim
The applicant argued that when the light turned yellow, he judged that the other eastbound traffic had enough time to stop safely, so he commenced his left turn.
In support of his position that the respondent had had enough time to stop, the applicant submitted still frame, time-stamped photographs taken from his dash cam footage as well as measurements taken from Google maps.
The dash cam photographs helped demonstrate where the respondent’s vehicle was in relation to the crosswalk and intersection while the light was yellow.
The court considered the evidence submitted by the applicant, stating:
“I note that [the evidence] shows [the respondent]’s vehicle entered the intersection while the light was yellow and that her vehicle was fully in the intersection before the traffic light turns red, which [the applicant] does not dispute.
However, as for [the applicant]’s still images and measurements proving that [the respondent] had enough time to stop, I find expert evidence is needed to comment on [the respondent]’s speed and the expected stopping distance. I note that the roads were wet, and it was raining when the accident happened, which could impact stopping distances, but again, I require expert evidence, such as from an engineer, on this issue.
So, I find that I must determine the parties’ respective responsibility for the accident based on [the applicant]’s statement about the accident, my review of the dash cam footage, which I find provides the best evidence of the circumstances of the accident, and the relevant law. I note that [the respondent]’s statement about the accident was not before me.”
The court then noted that in such cases, that the onus is on a left turning driver to prove that they started to turn left when it was safe to do so and that the through driver was not an immediate hazard; while a left turning driver can reasonably assume that approaching drivers will obey the rules of the road, they cannot proceed blindly on that assumption.
The court found that the applicant had proceeded with his left turn immediately after another drove past him, without pausing to assess whether the respondent was slowing down or was going to stop. Additionally, the court found that the applicant had blindly assumed that the respondent would stop for the yellow light when he started his left turn without confirming it was safe to do so. The court stated:
“Had [the applicant] paused even momentarily before starting his turn, he would have seen [the respondent] was not slowing for the yellow light and been able to safely wait to complete his left turn once she passed through the intersection. Therefore, [the applicant] bears some responsibility for the accident.”
Nevertheless, the court found that the dash cam evidence showed that the light turned yellow at least 3 seconds before the respondent’s front tires crossed the stop line into the marked crosswalk, at which point the applicant had already started his turn; the light turned red less than one second later, just as the vehicles collided. Therefore, the court found that the respondent had entered the intersection on a “stale yellow” light. The onus thus fell on the respondent to prove that she was unable to stop safely in all the circumstances, which she did not do. As a result, the court found that the respondent also bore some responsibility for the accident, though, given the high onus on left turning drivers, it found that the applicant bore most of the responsibility.
On balance, the court found that the applicant was 75% at fault for the accident, and respondent was 25% at fault. Given the court’s findings on liability, the respondent was therefore responsible for $250 of the applicant’s damages.
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