Swerved to avoid deer, liable in crash involving wife and brother in law

Driver liable in wipeout

A BC Supreme Court judge has ruled the driver in a crash near Vernon was not paying attention, was speeding, and did not meet the duty of care owed to his passengers.

Those passengers were his wife and brother in law.

The accident happened the afternoon of June 9, 2018.

Gurmel Singh Dhaliwal was driving his 2003 Acura EL from their home to Kelowna and was on Bailey Road when he saw a deer on the road and swerved sharply to the right, losing control and crashing about 60 metres along a rocky ditch before coming to a rest.

His wife, Amar Kaur Dhaliwal, was seated behind him, and her brother, Gurdeep Singh Dehal, was seated in the front passenger seat.

It had rained earlier that day, and the roads were still wet.

As the trial so far only deals with liability, Justice Frits Verhoeven heard no evidence regarding injuries

However, photos showed damage to the right side and undercarriage of the car.

The plaintiffs allege the accident occurred as a result of negligence, that Dhaliwal was driving too fast for the road conditions and was not paying sufficient attention.

In a Dec. 4 judgment in New Westminster, Verhoeven agreed.

The justice found Dhaliwal failed to meet the standard of care required and, having lived in the same home for 14 years and driven the same road, should have known of the wildlife danger.

Neither passenger was paying attention at the time of the incident; both were looking at their cellphones.

Dehal testified he suddenly heard the defendant swear, and the car swerved hard to the right. He looked up and saw a deer on the left-hand side of the vehicle, on the road, running away.

Dhaliwal gave conflicting testimony about where he first saw the deer and said his vision was restricted by a curve in the road.

Verhoeven wasn't buying it. "The irresistible conclusion I come to is that the defendant simply did not see the deer, when it was there to be seen, and that he was simply not paying sufficient attention."

A traffic reconstructionist also determined the Acura was likely speeding at up to 79 km/h by the distance it took to come to a stop.

"Had he been paying careful attention, as he should have, (Dhaliwal) ought to have been able to see the deer in time to avoid a collision, by simply braking the vehicle, rather than veering sharply to the right, and losing control of it," the judge ruled.

Verhoeven said the plaintiffs established the first two elements of the cause of action in negligence: that the defendant owed a duty of care, and breached the standard of care.

An assessment of damages will occur separately. Costs are to be determined after the conclusion of the trial.

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