What happens when your car hits a moose or a moose hits our your car?
In a case of man and machine versus moose, who is liable for injury? The Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador was tasked with the latter question in Hartson v Hunter, 2006 NLTD 59 (CanLII: http://canlii.ca/t/1mxfk). The defendant was travelling on an isolated two-lane portion of the Trans Canada Highway in the evening, when he struck a moose. Almost immediately after, the plaintiff struck the same moose as he was driving his pickup truck in the opposite direction on the highway. The moose crashed through the plaintiff’s windshield, causing him serious injuries.
The plaintiff claimed that the defendant was driving in an imprudent manner. According to the plaintiff, the defendant was driving too fast for the road conditions and, had he not driven as fast, the plaintiff’s injuries would not have been as severe. The plaintiff further argued that there “was [a] real potential for a moose being on the road” and that the defendant should have driven more slowly because of “the presence of the oncoming [plaintiff’s] vehicle, since the oncoming headlights, even on low beam, reduced the ability of [the defendant]to see the road ahead of him.”
In Newfoundland and Labrador, is a driver negligent when driving the speed limit in a situation where he may hit wildlife?
Section 110(1)(a) of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Highway Traffic Act requires driving at a reasonable and prudent speed under the conditions and potential hazards one might encounter on a highway. The defendant had slowed down below the posted speed limit of 100km/h when he saw the plaintiff’s headlights on the highway. He also was keeping a lookout for moose as he was aware these were a potential hazard in this region. He was driving at an appropriate speed for the road conditions; he was in control of his vehicle and there were no patches of ice on the highway. He hit the brakes as soon as he saw the moose, although that did not prevent him from colliding with it. The court concluded that “[t]he law does not require that one drive at such a speed as will enable the vehicle to be brought to a stop within the limits of the driver’s vision.” The court further concluded that if it found the defendant was negligent in this case, it would impose an impossibly high a duty of care on motorists; the court cannot expect drivers, in other words, to drive flawlessly. In the end, the court found the defendant was not responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries and that “[t]he accident on the night of February 12, 2002 was simply that – an unfortunate accident”.
How does this apply to Ontario? Both Newfoundland and Labrador and Ontario are governed by common law. This means that while they evaluate infractions according to their own independent Highway Traffic Act, their evaluation method is the same. They need to see whether there was negligent driving under the tort of negligence (Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negligence). Therefore, one can reasonably say that a judge in Ontario would use similar reasoning as the court of Newfoundland and Labrador.
In such a case, the plaintiff is unable to claim for damages against the other driver. However, the plaintiff can still claim for accident benefits under his own insurance policy.
Our Ottawa personal injury and accident lawyers are specifically trained to help with Accident Benefits claims. If you or someone you care about was injured in an accident, please contact one of our lawyers for a free consultation. We work on a no-fee-until-you-win basis. Call us at 613-315-4878. Marc Quinn, Ottawa car accident lawyer.