British Columbia law means parents could be on the hook for collisions when securing their child

Published: October 25, 2018

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Parents in British Columbia face a tricky situation when buckling kids thanks to a confusing provincial law. That’s because they could be at fault if another vehicle hits a door when securing a child with the door open.

Kristen Chalmers, a mother from Surrey, BC was placed 100 percent at fault when this happened to her. She was securing her child in the rear of the vehicle when a van’s mirror hit her door.

“I had already put my 10-month-old into her car seat — she’s in one of those bucket seats that you just move into the car. I was buckling in my oldest daughter on the passenger side. It was my mom who was on the driver’s side, buckling in my son.”

At Fault

Chalmers was found at fault by the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC). She argues the law provides for enough time for a door to be open when a passenger is securing themselves in the vehicle.

“In the Motor Vehicle Act, it states something along the lines of ‘the car door being opened for a period of time to get a passenger in and out.’ What is considered a safe period of time? Well in my opinion, whatever time it takes to properly buckle a child in.”

The other driver involved in the incident has not sought any damages, so Chalmers’ will not pay higher premiums. However, she believes the law needs to be properly explained.

“I still feel like I’m deserving of some type of explanation. If you’re going to tell me that I can’t open my door to put my child in and that I’ll be found at fault for that, what if she had requested damages?”

ICBC says under the law, having the door open would not result in fault, but in this case the door opened more into the moving van. The Motor Vehicle Act states a person is prohibited from opening a door on the side of moving traffic until it is safe to do so.

“In this case, the vehicle door was partially open but then the door was opened further into the side of the moving vehicle. The responsibility for the impact lies with the door opener.”

What can parents do?

Chalmers insists the ICBC was never told the door was opened further and says she simply does not accept all the blame. “I think I would have been more accepting of a 50-50 type thing. But to just be told ‘You’re 100 per cent at fault’… I was blown away.”

She is now pushing the ICBC to find out what parents can do in this situation. In response, the public insurance provider says awareness is key to safety:

“Parking lots are very busy places. The key tip is to be aware of the vehicles around you when parking or returning to your parked vehicle. Continue to watch for other drivers as you and your passengers enter and exit the vehicle. Don’t leave doors open longer than necessary and check before opening any door further. If an incident occurs, try to find an independent witness if possible.”