On July 23, 2002, Scott Rollins, an off-duty police officer, was driving between mall parking lots when a driver named Mr. Lovely struck his vehicle. In 2007, the case, Rollins v. Lovely, went all the way to the Supreme Court of British Columbia.
Seconds before the collision, Mr. Lovely, the defendant, received a cell phone call. He looked down at his phone to see who was calling him. As he did he turned, accelerated, veered out of his lane, and struck the Rollins vehicle.
Rollins did make some mistakes. He accelerated to try to avoid the collision but failed to honk his horn. He’d also only looked in one direction, the one he expected traffic to come from, instead of looking in both directions.
Yet that wasn’t enough to apportion very much liability to him. The judge apportioned 10% liability to Rollins. Lovely was apportioned 90% of the responsibility. “Mr. Lovely became a hazard after he completed his right turn and sped down the hill toward the crossing Rollins car, distracted and veering into its path. In so doing, he failed to drive with reasonable care and created the hazardous circumstances that were the primary cause of the accident: excessive speed and prolonged inattention.”
Most people think you have to be handling your cell phone in some way to be faulted for distracted driving. They know that picking up the phone or answering a text while driving could mean that the resulting accident is entirely their fault.
This is in part because those forms of distracted driving are very easy to prove. An lawyer can subpoena phone records to get that information.
In this case, determining the driver’s inattention came about as a result of a witness: a Ms. Reid. She saw Lovely looking down as he sped into the intersection. He tried to defend himself by saying he just glanced down at the phone for a moment. He ended up condemning himself out of his own mouth.
Besides serving as a nice example of how fault can get apportioned in a personal injury case, this case also serves as a demonstration of how distracted driving can impact your claim.
First, it shows that you can’t guarantee that ICBC’s accident investigation will rule in your favor even when the facts seem clear. Had ICBC assigned Lovely 90% of the responsibility from the start there wouldn’t have been a need to take the case to court. It would have been clear that Rollins was entitled to third party tort benefits and the only question from there would have been how much to settle for.
Instead this case had to go all the way to the Supreme Court.
ICBC doesn’t want to assign fault because assigning fault is expensive for them. If they can say both drivers were equally at fault then they can pay no-fault Part 7 benefits and be done. That’s a lot cheaper for them than paying a third party tort claim.
Second, it shows that distracted driving means losing your case. If you’re the plaintiff and it can be proven that you were driving while distracted then there’s a good chance you’ll walk away with nothing. If you’re up against a defendant who was driving while distracted and your lawyer can help you prove it, then you’ve got an excellent case.
Not sure? Want to find out what happened because you don’t exactly know? Call us for a free consultation and we’ll help you uncover the facts of your case.