A Court of Appeal has determined that a van driver who collided into the rear of the vehicle in front was only partly responsible for causing the accident. Liability in rear end “shunts” is often thought to rest wholly with the driver of the vehicle behind.
The Transit van was travelling was a dual carriageway, around three car lengths behind the car in front. A third vehicle approached at speed on the inside lane and cut in sharply in front of the car, forcing both the car driver and the van driver behind to brake at the same time, before speeding away.
The car driver began to accelerate followed by the van driver, who was now only around a half a car length behind him. Without warning, the car driver suddenly braked a second time and the van collided into the rear of the vehicle.
The car driver, who sustained personal injuries, brought a claim against the defendant van driver for travelling too close and failing to leave a sufficient stopping distance.
Braked without good reason
However at the initial court hearing, the car driver’s case was dismissed on the grounds that he was wholly responsible for the accident as he had braked “without warning or without good reason”.
The car driver appealed the judge’s verdict and at the Court of Appeal it was determined that the van driver was mainly responsible. The Court found that the accident would not have occurred if the van driver had left sufficient stopping distance between his van and the vehicle in front. However, the judge decided that the car driver was also partly to blame for the accident because he had braked sharply without good reason.
The Court upheld the car driver’s appeal but apportioned 60% of the blame to the van driver and 40% to the car driver for unnecessary braking.