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Car accident: Overview

Since 2000, more than 1.6 million automobile collisions have occurred on Canada’s roads and highways, nearly 400 each day. In 2012 alone, over 160,000 Canadians were injured or killed as a result.

Some of these cases result in criminal charges and lawsuits as well. To file a suit after a crash, there are questions of who, if anybody, is at fault and whether anyone suffered as a result. 

Legal claims arising from collisions typically fall into the realm of “negligence.” This refers to conduct that creates an unreasonable risk of harm.

Generally speaking, you have a legal obligation to ensure your actions don’t expose other people to harm. This is legally known as a “duty of care.” If you fail in that duty, you could be liable for negligence and have to pay damages resulting from a collision.

Negligent driving can take many forms, but some typical examples include:

  • distracted driving (such as texting, making phone calls, programming a GPS);
  • disobeying traffic signs or signals;
  • failing to signal while turning;
  • illegal passing;
  • speeding and racing; and
  • impaired driving.

To prove a negligence claim, a plaintiff needs to prove the following:

  • The defendant owed them a duty of care;
  • The defendant didn’t fulfil that responsibility;
  • The plaintiff suffered damages;
  • Those damages are the result of the defendant’s actions.

In some cases, the driver may not be the only liable party.

In cases of impaired driving, whoever supplied alcohol to the driver can also be at fault. Bars and restaurants have a responsibility to monitor a patron’s alcohol intake then stop serving and possibly prevent then from driving. A private party host is rarely liable, but it can depend on the unique circumstances of the case.

In other cases, the driver may not be liable at all, but third parties would be.

Automobile manufacturers can be sued for product liability if a collision or injury is caused by a defect in your vehicle. If faulty brakes led to a collision or you were injured because an airbag didn’t deploy for example, the fault may lie with the company that made it.

Other factors such as malfunctioning traffic lights, potholes, or poor road maintenance, such as uncleared snow and ice can lead to collisions and injuries. In those cases, a municipality can be held liable.

If you wish to file a claim, you must do so within a certain period of time. Laws vary from province to province, but the limitation period is often two years. Personal injury lawsuits can be costly and time-consuming, so seek legal advice to evaluate your case and help determine if any liability exists.

Read more:

Fault Determination Rules Ontario

Assessing fault in a crash ICBC