ICBC Case – Pickup truck and tractor trailer collision on highway 16 near Prince George
A car accident can change the course of your life, and those around you. And the sad truth is that in a moment, the slightest angle, or movement can make all the difference. William Hogstead, unfortunately, suffered a severe head injury in a car accident which took place on January 6th 2010, leaving him unable to return to his usual affairs after the accident, and unable to remember any of the details of the collision that lead to his injuries. A devastating reality.
His lawyers had to put together the story after the event and it took a trial and appeal before his case would end. William Hogstead, had been to the Prince George hospital for a routine CT scan, but as we later learned he was given some medication before he left. He was driving his pickup truck home east on highway 16 on January 6, 2010. His vehicle and a tractor-trailer collided with each other “left tire to left tire”. The tractor-trailer was being driven by Mr. Spiers, at the end of a long day possibly overdriving the trucking regulations. Mr Hogstead’s pick up went out of control and was smashed to pieces, the wheels on the left side of his truck were torn off, it spun and ended up in a snow bank. All that was left was the gouge, from his pick up being forced into the roadway.
Two accident reconstruction experts and two different reconstructions made this case immensely complicated. The question of liability hung in the balance as the court sought to determine which reconstruction held true. By one interpretation, the ‘crescent shaped gouge’, thought to be from the rim of the pickup truck’s front wheel, would show that both parties were over the centre line at the point of first impact. In another, the crescent-shaped gouge over the centre line followed a row of others which suggested that only Mr. Hogstead was far over the line at the point of impact.
Before the question of damages sustained by Mr. Hogstead could even be addressed, the question of liability required an answer. Where did the principal impact occur? According to court transcripts, there was some evidence that Mr. Spiers had been passing in a no-passing zone. Unfortunately this evidence came from a local young man, badly burned, who was on his way to treatment at a recovery centre and a driver less familiar with the area. The experienced truck driver swore that Mr. Hogstead travelled from the shoulder, across his lane, and into the oncoming lane. And from this meagre base, the Court had to try and piece together the truth from the darkness of a snowy mid-winter’s night, and the confusion of trauma.
Mr. Hogstead was left with severe damage to the brain, as often occurs, the brain is then incapable of storing information and thus unable to provide any reliable account of the sequence of events. Mr. Spiers testified that Mr. Hogstead glided slowly across the road to the point of impact. The two other witnesses weighed in on the actions and manner of Spiers, and testified that he had overtaken them shortly before the accident occurred, but much of their recall was unclear and uncertain as the stretch of highway where the collision occurred is dark, undulating and straight for many miles. At trial, the judge determined that the centre line gouge clearly indicated the point of furthest intrusion, that both parties were marginally encroaching, that neither party was speeding, and that if it occurred, the overtaking had taken place in a safe zone, before the accident occurred. A few small details, the width of the trailor, the angle of impact, and the precise location of the gouge helped to unknot this case.
ICBC denied any liability for the truck driver, Mr. Spiers, before trial, at trial and at appeal. The Court, after a detailed analysis, and excellent legal work in establishing the facts of the conflicting accounts, found both drivers were found to be equally at fault. Mr. Hogstead, despite being unable to say at all what occurred was able to undo the experienced trucker’s accusation of having glided across the road into the truck was thankfully spared by the true facts of the case, and his legal representation.
After the Court of Appeal decision was released the case was resolved for many times more than ICBC originally proposed. Despite a successful legal result these tragic cases can dismantle so much of an expected life trajectory. This sad and difficult case shows how challenging the reality of post-accident life can be. Car collisions happen. Lives are altered in mere moments. And in the tender space of brain injury, a delicate approach to the legal aspects can help to optimally compensate for the lost life path, and through careful referrals and an understanding of head injury conditions, the right advice can establish the new path, and launch accident victims with hope, an understanding of what to expect from life, and financial backing to handle the challenges.