2024 Cyclist Case – Wrist Fractures

Legal Resource

Today’s case law involves a cyclist.  This is a recent 2024 case that involves an interesting discussion because during this crash, there was actually no contact between vehicle and bicycle.  The liability argument involves the  “agony of collision” doctrine. In addition, this case involved a Plaintiff that was thrown over the handlebars and landed on his head, breaking his wrist and suffering abrasions.  Our article will enumerate a number of cases referred to by the Plaintiff involving wrist injuries in the range of $108,000–$130,000, and the Defence in the range of $55,000–$80,000. 

Case Summary

The plaintiff was cycling home from a baseball game, using his iPhone for light and intending to stop at a stop sign. As he approached an alley, a vehicle turned left in front of him without signaling. The plaintiff braked forcefully, causing him to be thrown over the handlebars. He landed on his head, breaking his wrist and suffering abrasions, though there was no collision with the vehicle, which stopped before crossing his path.

The plaintiff’s testimony, which was unchallenged during cross-examination, was accepted by the court. The defense suggested an alternative theory that a different car caused the accident and then fled the scene unnoticed, but this was rejected as speculative and unsupported by evidence.

The court found it highly improbable that another vehicle was involved and concluded that the plaintiff accurately described the defendant’s actions. Both the plaintiff and the defendant testified that they did not see any other vehicle in the area at the time of the accident. Therefore, it was determined that the accident occurred exactly as the plaintiff described: he braked to avoid hitting the defendant’s car, an Alfa Romeo, which had turned left into his path.

Based on these findings, the court ruled that the defendant was negligent for initiating a left turn into the path of the plaintiff, violating the Motor Vehicle Act, which requires left-turning drivers to yield to oncoming traffic, including cyclists. The court also found that the plaintiff’s fall was directly caused by the defendant’s negligence. As a result, the defendant was held 100% responsible for the accident, with no contributory negligence assigned to the plaintiff.

Agony of collision

The argument of agony of collision was argued by the Plaintiff and accepted by the Court and I quote directly from this case:

I agree with the plaintiff’s submissions that the concept of “agony of the collision” is applicable. In that regard, I respectfully adopt what was said by Justice Griffin, as she then was, in Davies v. Elston, 2014 BCSC 2435.

[216]   The law has long recognized that if an emergency situation on the road is created by a driver’s negligence, another road user’s response to the emergency will be viewed less strictly. The kinds of tough decisions made by road users facing an emergency are sometimes referred to as decisions made in the agony of the collision.

[217]   The “agony of collision” doctrine was summarized in Gerbrandt v. Deleeuw (citation given) where Hunter J. stated as follows:

[10]      An often quoted summary of the law concerning the agony of collision is found in an old text, Huddy on Automobiles, 7th Ed., page 471 and page 335 (this passage is relied upon by the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal in English v. North Star Oil Limited 1941 CanLII 161 (SK CA), [1941] 3 W.W.R. 622 (Sask. C.A.) and Reineke v. Weisgerber 1974 CanLII 945 (SK KB), [1974] 3 W.W.R. 97 (Sask. Q.B.)):

“Under circumstances of imminent danger an attempt to avoid a collision by turning one’s course instead of stopping the vehicle is not necessarily negligence. Or an attempt to stop when a turn would have been a more effective method of avoiding the collision is not necessarily negligence . . . one who suddenly finds himself in a place of danger and is required to consider the best means that may be adopted to evade the impending danger is not guilty of negligence if he fails to adopt what subsequently and upon reflection may appear to have been a better method, unless the emergency in which he finds himself is brought about by his own negligence.”

[11]      In Gill v. C.P.R. 1973 CanLII 2 (SCC), [1973] 4 W.W.R. 593 Mr. Justice Spence speaking for the court said the following:

It is trite law that, faced with a sudden emergency the creation of which the driver is not responsible, he cannot be held to a standard of conduct which one sitting in the calmness of a courtroom later might determine was the best course. …

[Emphasis added.]

[17]      Here, there was a need for the plaintiff to react quickly in an attempt to avoid a collision with a motor vehicle, which collision would almost certainly have caused him serious injury. I cannot say that the plaintiff in any way overreacted, nor that his response, applying both brakes forcefully, was inappropriate. The action of sudden braking caused him to be propelled over the handlebars. However, the plaintiff’s decision to apply the brakes was not imprudent, and he is not contributorily negligent as a result of those actions.

Case Law – Wrist injuries in the range of $108,000–$130,000

[29]      Ozeer v. Young, 2015 BCSC 542, in which a 29‑year‑old male plaintiff was involved in a motor vehicle accident and sustained a wrist fracture. X‑rays revealed an intra‑articular fracture with some carpal dislocation. As a result, the plaintiff required three surgeries. He continued to experience ongoing pain. Expert evidence revealed that he had permanent wrist stiffness and associated weakness, that the further surgery other than hardware removal was unlikely. Expert evidence further revealed there was nothing further that could restore the plaintiff’s wrist motion and strength. The court inferred that his pain and discomfort would likely worsen due to the onset of arthritis. The award for nonpecuniary damages was $95,000 which adjusted for inflation would be approximately $119,000.

[30]      Ackermann v. Pandher, 2017 BCSC 880, in which a 52‑year‑old male plaintiff involved in a motor vehicle accident sustained a perilunate dislocation injury resulting in soft tissue and ligament disruption in his wrist. The injuries required surgery involving insertion of plates. Expert evidence showed that the condition was chronic with a likelihood of deterioration over time. Prior to the accident, the plaintiff led an active lifestyle. The court found that his injuries significantly affected his ability to participate in recreational activities and awarded nonpecuniary damages of $90,000 which adjusted for inflation is approximately $109,000.

[31]      Ferguson v. All‑Can Express Ltd., [1998] B.C.J. No. 78, 1998 CanLII 4718 (B.C.S.C.), in which a 37‑year‑old male plaintiff was involved in a motor vehicle accident and suffered injuries to his neck, back, and left wrist. The neck and back problems resolved within weeks, but the wrist injury persisted requiring three surgeries. Expert evidence revealed that the plaintiff would be left with permanent weakness in his left hand. The Court awarded $75,000 in nonpecuniary damages which adjusted for inflation is approximately $130,000.

[32]      Burke v. Schwetje, 2017 BCSC 2098, in which a 67‑year‑old male plaintiff, a commercial fisherman with pre‑existing mildly symptomatic arthritis, suffered a permanent injury to his right hand and wrist including carpal tunnel syndrome. He also suffered chest bruising and neck and back stiffness which had resolved. The plaintiff’s hand and wrist pain required two surgeries. The Court recognized that the plaintiff’s livelihood had changed substantially as a result of the accident, and that his career had been shortened by the aggravation of his pre‑existing arthritis. The court awarded nonpecuniary damages of $95,000 which adjusted for inflation is approximately $115,000.

Case Law – Wrist injuries in the range of $55,000 to 80,000.

[34]      Charters v. Jordan, 2023 BCSC 954, in which a 29‑year‑old plaintiff suffered injuries while riding her bike and being thrown from the bicycle and bracing her fall with her hands. As a result of the accident, the plaintiff suffered a right wrist fracture and minor injuries to her right hip and right knee. She was required to modify her work duties due to wrist pain. Her symptoms improved, and she was able to return to many of her pre‑accident activities. However, she avoided some activities such as lifting heavy objects, golfing, and snowboarding. She continued to experience discomfort and pain in her wrist and required minor modifications. The plaintiff was awarded $70,000 in nonpecuniary damages.

[35]      Pringle v. Pringle, 2020 BCSC 75, in which a 31‑year‑old plaintiff suffered injuries in a motor vehicle accident which included a broken wrist, a pulled rotator cuff, and a compression fracture in his back. The plaintiff fractured the wrist and had abrasions on his left hip and knees. He had surgery for the wrist fracture which required wires to be inserted to hold the bones in place while the fracture healed. After six weeks, the wires were removed, and the plaintiff’s wrist was placed in a cast. Nonpecuniary damages were assessed at $50,000.

[36]      Birrer v. Thomas, 2019 BCSC 1642, in which a 31‑year‑old plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle accident. The injuries included an injury to the left wrist, soft tissue pain in the neck, back, and right arm, cuts and scrapes to the face and body. Most of the symptoms were resolved within six months of the accident, but the plaintiff had ongoing pain and limitation relating to the left wrist injury with ongoing pain and reduced function in his left forearm at the time of trial four years after the accident. Nonpecuniary damages were assessed at $55,000.

In reviewing the evidence, the Court awarded $110,000. for non-pecuniary damages.  The Court stated:

I find that because of the need for multiple surgeries, the significant impact on the daily activities of the plaintiff, and the ongoing, likely permanent discomfort, and limited range of motion, the range of damages suggested by the plaintiff is more appropriate than that suggested by the defendant.


[42]      In conclusion, I award the plaintiff nonpecuniary damages of $110,000 and special damages of $1,155.72 for a total of $111,155.72. The plaintiff has been wholly successful at trial. Unless there are circumstances of which I am unaware, he is entitled to his costs of this proceeding. Those costs are fixed by application of R. 15‑1(15).

Case Link.