Written By: Patrick Brown
We were recently able to win our civil lawsuit and bring the family of the late Doug Crosbie some semblance of justice and closure.
Doug was riding his bike to work in the bike lane near Dundas and Jones in Toronto. As he approached the intersection, his light was green. When he entered the intersection, a truck driver travelling the same direction to the left of the designated bike lane, turned his truck right crossing Doug’s path, and killed him.
At first glance, would one not expect this case to be seriously contested on liability. It appeared to be straightforward.
The truck driver was charged with “Turn Not in Safety” under the Highway Traffic Act (HTA). If convicted the result would be a small fine. The charge, however, was disputed and vigorously defended. The driver was defended by the same lawyers that were appointed by his insurance company to defend the civil case brought by our firm. At this stage, the prosecution is handled by a provincial prosecutor. Provincial prosecutors have limited funding and resources. The victim’s civil firm is not entitled to participate in these proceedings.
The driver’s lawyers hired a human factors expert to argue against the charge. Following a three day trial that took three years to happen, the Judge acquitted the driver. Oddly when rendering an acquittal, the Judge stated, “obviously this turn was objectively unsafe” and “the turn was objectively dangerous.” The Decision was not appealed.
Unfortunately, in our system, HTA proceedings cause significant delay in victims moving forward with their civil suit. Despite the driver and his lawyers being granted access to all police records, videos, and evidence from the scene after the charge is laid, the victims are not. It is only after the HTA proceedings are concluded that access to these records are granted to the victims. This includes police records, the crown brief, video, audio, and reconstruction and inspection reports.
After court motions, production orders, examinations under oath of the driver, and investigation by our private investigator, we obtained opinions from our forensic engineers and trucking expert. The opinions were clear. The driver was fully at fault. Not only was this turn not in safety, it was fully preventable. Our trucking expert was also clear that the turn was contrary to the standard practice of truck operators.
What have we learned from this Case?
1. We need greater awareness and education of the Rules of the Road and operating vehicles near bike lanes.
During the case, it became apparent that there are those individuals, even experts, who do not know the proper rules relating to turning right across a bike lane depending on the design of the intersection and the use of solid and dashed lines. For those individuals and any others who do not understand such, we recommend a quick review online.
2. Driving a Truck requires the outmost care and attention.
Truck mirrors should be properly adjusted and inspected to provide maximum visibility at the side and the rear of the truck. This should be meticulously done.
Truck drivers should be given mandatory training on navigating bike infrastructure and should require an independent certificate proving such.
3. Greater regulatory measures should be taken to enhance truck safety
Municipalities should ensure trucks and trucking companies carrying dangerous materials should not be on the roads during times when full braking is required. Although this should be any time, it is extremely important in high volume pedestrian and cycling areas.
The MTO should require mandatory truck driving training, tests and examination specifically toward trucking where bike infrastructure exists such as urban areas.
The MTO and Federal Government should implement mandatory sideguards on all trucks that travel off the highways.
Urban governments like the City of Toronto, should restrict all truck traffic in areas of high density pedestrian and cycling traffic.
4. Victims of road traffic collisions should have certain minimum rights.
A Victims Bill of Rights should be granted to those victims dealing with provincial highway traffic offences similar to the ones granted to victims in criminal proceedings.
Victims should be granted access to all records following a crash in the same capacity as the accused and mechanism should be in place to reduce in the delay of productions in the civil proceedings.
Provincial Prosecutors should be granted greater funding to assist in prosecuting serious offences resulting in death or serious injury under the Highway Traffic Act.
Additional rules should be incorporated in the present system to ensure that a victim’s civil action seeking justice should not be delayed by provincial court proceedings, including automatic production of video, police notes and records, black box data without the need of court orders immediately following a crash.