Am I liable if I…. A Post on Liability in Car Accidents

To be compensated for injuries and losses resulting from a car accident, the first thing you must prove is that someone was responsible for them.  Put simply, someone who injures another should compensate them.  That is what we call “liability”.

Drivers have an obligation to drive safely and those who cause compromising situations on the roads need to be held responsible.  Drivers owe a duty of care to other users of the road and those that fail to meet that duty can be found liable.  Some of these duties stem from the Motor Vehicle Act and others stem from the basic principles of common law.

There are many different types of actions that can cause a driver to be liable for a collision.  You may have heard accidents being referred to as a “rear-ender” or a “T-Bone” accident.  In this blog, we will review some types of accidents and how the question of liability is typically treated by personal injury lawyers and decided by the Courts.

It is important to understand that liability is not a question of all or nothing.  Drivers can share liability depending on the fact scenario.


A rear-ender is when a vehicle strikes another from behind.  The general rule is that the driver who strikes another from behind is 100% liable for the collision unless evidence is brought forward to refute that assumption.

The laws of New Brunswick have many rules that aim at preventing rear-end accidents, such as maintaining a proper distance from the vehicle in front of you, keeping your vehicle in good condition, making sure your brakes work properly, and making it illegal to use electronic devices while driving.  If you fail to follow the rules and cause a car accident resulting in injuries, you can be found liable to compensate the other driver.

However, there are exceptions to the rule.  For example, if the driver of the front vehicle slams on its brakes for no reason on a highway, the driver that rear-ended the front vehicle can argue that the front driver made the collision unavoidable. Another example is when the middle driver of a 3-car pile-up is struck from behind and pushed into the vehicle in front of it.  Many other fact scenarios exist in which liability can be shared among drivers in a rear-end collision.

The question of liability may be more straight-forward in rear-end collisions, but the question of compensation may not be.  So, if you have been rear-ended, you should contact our personal injury lawyers today to schedule your free consultation.


A T-Bone collision is when a vehicle strikes another vehicle on the side, forming a “T” between the two.  This type of collision usually occurs when one driver fails to yield the right of way.

The driver that did not stop is typically entirely at fault for failing to yield the right of way.  Sections 119 or 186 of the Motor Vehicle Act underscore the importance of making a complete stop where it’s marked.  Sections 165 and 186 of the Motor Vehicle Act require that drivers yield the right of way when entering a roadway.

If you have been involved in a T-Bone collision, you should take pictures and obtain the name of any witnesses who can help with the question of liability. Our personal injury lawyers have experience in compiling the evidence to establish liability in a T-Bone collision.

Left-turn collision

While driving, you may have asked yourself: “Do I have enough time to turn left before that vehicle arrives?” or “Why would that person turn left right in front of me?”  You should always err on the side of caution while driving and be mindful of those who may not be as careful.

Drivers have an obligation to stay to the right of the centre line. You should not make a left-hand turn without yielding the right of way to vehicles going in the opposite direction. Doing the latter will likely find you on the wrong side of a personal injury action.  The purpose of Sections 147 and 148 of the Motor Vehicle Act are to prevent left-hand turn collisions.

An example of possible exceptions to the rule are when the oncoming driver is speeding. This scenario can put some of the liability on others, but it can be difficult to prove.

If you were on either side of a left-hand turn collision, do not hesitate to contact us to receive a free consultation.

Head-on collision

A head-on collision usually happens when one vehicle crosses the centre line, either purposely to pass another vehicle or accidentally after losing control of their vehicle.

Either way, as we saw in the section on left-turn collisions, drivers have an obligation to stay on the right side of the road and failure to do so can make you liable to the other driver.

The rule is that the person who crosses the centre line will be found liable for the collision.  However, there are exceptions to that rule.  For example, a driver who crosses the centre line to avoid a primary collision may be deemed not liable for a secondary collision.

Soooooo…. Are you liable?

As you can see, when it comes to liability, there are exceptions to every rule.  This blog does not include all possible car accident scenarios.  The question of liability is one of fact and relies heavily on the parties’ testimony, the witness statements, the markings on the road, the property damage to the vehicles and many other factors.  Let us do the work and collect this information for you while you focus on your recovery.

Our personal injury lawyers have experience in securing the evidence necessary to address the question of liability.  Once liability is established, you must prove damages, but we’ll talk about that in another blog post. Our team of personal injury lawyers will work for you to ensure that you receive full compensation for your damages because, at Fidelis Law, we’re in your corner!


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