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Driver liability in a rear end collision

Posted by Kotak Law Office on March 18, 2016
Posted under Car Accidents

Rear-end collisions are somewhat unique in terms of fault determination.  Ontario courts assign 100 per cent fault to the rear driver in almost all negligence lawsuits.  This means that if you were seriously injured in a rear end collision, you likely have an excellent case for a finding of negligence on behalf of the other driver.  Accordingly, under Ontario law, the burden of proof is always on the rear driver to prove that they were not entirely responsible for a collision, based on the premise that they would have been able to stop in time if they were driving carefully and leaving enough room.

Similarly to the courts, insurance companies generally assign fault to the rear driver in an accident. Insurance guidelines are defined in the fault determination rules under the Insurance Act, which outlines different scenarios involving multiple cars and different circumstances that may occur in an accident.  Under these insurance rules, a driver found to be more than 25 per cent at fault in contributing to, or causing a rear end collision may be subject to an increase in their insurance rates.

Injuries in rear-end collisions

Rear-end collisions are one of the most common types of accidents in Ontario municipalities,  and can occur in slow moving traffic as well as in multi-car collisions on major highways.  Injuries can vary greatly in terms of severity; however it is not uncommon for individuals who are rear-ended at low speeds to sustain serious and permanent injuries.  This is particularly true if a smaller and lighter vehicle is rear-ended by a larger, heavier SUV or truck.  Another factor that can affect the severity of sustained injuries is the general health and age of an accident victim.

Spinal and neck injuries, including whiplash, are among the most common injuries experienced in a rear-end collision, and are caused by a sudden, violent and unanticipated impact.  Rear-end collisions are the most frequent cause of whiplash, defined by the Mayo clinic as a neck injury that results from a forceful and rapid back-and-forth neck movement, resembling the cracking of a whip.  Some people experience headaches, neck pain and stiffness as a result of a whiplash injury, which can be temporary symptoms; but for others, neck and spinal injury results in chronic pain syndrome.  Other injuries that are also often caused for victims of rear-end collisions are back injuries, traumatic brain injury, facial injuries and fractures.

Recent rear-end collision

In a 2015 trial, Harlow v Yusopov, the driver of car that was rear-ended filed a summary judgement to dismiss her passenger’s (the plaintiff’s) claim against her, as well as a cross claim by the defendant rear driver.  The defendant, Ms. Blanch, submits that she bears no responsibility in causing the accident that resulted in injuries to her passenger, Ms. Harlow, and therefore, there is no genuine issue requiring trial.

In June 2009, the defendant, Ms. Blanch was rear-ended by a car driven by Mr. Yusopov, while driving on Steeles Ave on route to York University. In determining liability for the accident, the judge in this case cited the Ontario Court of Appeal finding in Iannarella v. Corbett, stating that if the plaintiff has established that a rear-end collision occurred, then the evidentiary burden is on the defendant to satisfy the court that the accident did not result from his or her negligence.

The defendant, Mr. Yusopov, alleged that the accident happened because Ms. Blanch slammed on the brakes and he also claimed that he heard screeching as the car suddenly stopped; however, this narrative was not substantiated by any other evidence.  The passenger in Ms. Blanch’s car stated that Ms. Blanch did not drive erratically, but rather, slowed in response to an upcoming red light at the intersection and was fully stopped when the car was rear-ended.  Upon impact, Ms. Blanch’s car was pushed forward but did not hit the car in front of her, nor did the airbags deploy.

The judge in this case concluded that there was no evidence to support that Ms. Blanch’s actions contributed to the accident and further, found that the defendant, Mr. Yusopov failed to prove that the accident did not result from his negligence.  For these reasons, the claims against Ms. Blanch by the plaintiff and defendant were dismissed. The defendant, Mr. Yusopov, was ordered to pay $5,000 in costs for the motion to Ms. Blanch and was admonished by the judge for rejecting a previous offer to settle the case.

Personal injury cases are generally not complicated in terms of who is liable for the accident and injuries, but the injured party still has to prove that they have a serious and permanent impairment of an important physical, psychological or mental function to receive compensation for pain and suffering.  In cases where a rear-end collision results in injuries that later exhibit as chronic pain syndrome, insurers sometimes dispute the severity of the accident victim’s injuries because this type of injury can be difficult to measure and prove.  In such situations, appropriate medical assessments and the testimony of expert witnesses, such as neurologists and physiotherapists, play a vital role in convincing a judge or jury of the legitimacy and severity of chronic pain symptoms.  

The experienced lawyers at Kotak Law have connections with local medical professionals that can contribute to the evidence in a successful claim.  If you or a loved one suffered injuries resulting from a rear end collision or another accident, call Kotak Law to meet with one of our knowledgeable team and find out how we can obtain favourable compensation for you.

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Disclaimer: This article is intended to supply general information to the public. We make every effort to ensure the accuracy of this information. However, as laws change quickly, the reader should always ensure the accuracy and applicability of such information with respect to their particular case. The information contained in this article cannot replace a thorough and complete review of the reader's situation by competent legal counsel who has had an opportunity to review all of the facts.
Posted under Car Accidents
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