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Whose Fault Is It Anyway?

Whose Fault Is It Anyway?
January 3, 2019 Simon Hopes

The driver in front suddenly brakes
Whose fault this depends on the particular circumstances. If the driver performed an emergency stop to avoid something, like a dog suddenly running out into the road, it may not be that driver’s legal fault.
There are some older cases which say the driver should simply run the dog down, but no modern court is likely to take this line.
So not only will you as the following driver have no liability to him, but the other driver may well not be liable to you. There will be no “at-fault” driver at all, and you’ll each have to look to your own insurers for reimbursement of your losses.

You’re in a concertina collision
What about the situation where one driver has run into the back of another driver, who has crashed into the vehicle in front, and so on, before finally, the vehicle behind you hits the back of your car?
This is the kind of concertina scenario you sometimes see when there’s stopped traffic on a motorway and one driver has failed to react in time.
It is almost certain this one driver will be liable to all the damaged vehicles and their occupants.

You lose control by skidding
In ordinary weather conditions if your vehicle skids out of control, it’s almost inevitable you’ll be found negligent.
When it’s snowy or ice, especially on ungritted roads, things might be different. But even in bad weather, you’re expected to drive accordingly. If you don’t reduce your speed well below the limit and take particular care you may still be found liable even in extreme conditions.

You’re in a collision when emerging from a minor road
There is a heavy onus of care on the emerging driver. It’s your responsibility to wait for a gap in the traffic and enter the major road safely.
If it’s difficult to see, perhaps because of parked cars, the general rule is you should “peep and creep”. Or, as one of the leading cases put it, “nose poke”. In other words, you should advance in stages, stopping at intervals when you can monitor traffic on the major road.
Particular difficulties can arise if there’s a collision between an emerging car and an overtaking vehicle. Usually, but not always, the overtaking vehicle is a motorcyclist.
A common situation is the emerging driver intends to cross the major road and turn right. A vehicle on the main road stops to allow him out — but a motorcyclist is overtaking the traffic queue on the outside, often on the wrong side of the road, and collides with the emerging driver.
As long as the emerging driver is proceeding cautiously the lion’s share of liability rests with the overtaking vehicle driver or motorcyclist.

You have an accident when turning right
You must pay extra attention when turning right and wait for a safe gap.

A typical situation is a vehicle turning right collides with an oncoming vehicle on the major road. Liability will depend on the facts.
The most common reasons for such a collision are: the turning vehicle failed to keep a proper lookout, moved before there was a safe gap, or otherwise misjudged the approach of the other car.
The excessive speed of the oncoming vehicle is often a factor, meaning the oncoming driver is unable to slow down or take evasive action. In that situation, it’s important to establish both vehicles’ line of sight.

You are in an accident whilst overtaking
Overtaking is a risky activity, and The Highway Code sets out some absolute prohibitions on overtaking. In particular, you MUST NOT overtake:
• If you’d have to cross or straddle double white lines with a solid line nearest to you
• If you’d have to enter an area designed to divide traffic if it’s surrounded by a solid white line
• The nearest vehicle to a pedestrian crossing, especially if it’s stopped to let pedestrians cross
• If you’d have to enter a lane reserved for buses, trams or cyclists during operational hours
• After a “No Overtaking” sign, and until you pass a sign canceling the restriction
Apart from these specific MUST NOT rules, you’ll find general guidance which states:

Overtake only when it is safe and legal to do so. You should:
• not get too close to the vehicle you intend to overtake.
• use your mirrors, signal when it is safe to do so, take a quick sideways glance if necessary, into the blind spot area and then start to move out.
• not assume that you can simply follow a vehicle ahead which is overtaking; there may only be enough room for one vehicle.
• move quickly past the vehicle you are overtaking, once you have started to overtake. Allow plenty of room. Move back to the left as soon as you can but do not cut in.
• take extra care at night and in poor visibility when it is harder to judge speed and distance.
• give way to oncoming vehicles before passing parked vehicles or other obstructions on your side of the road.
• only overtake on the left if the vehicle in front is signaling to turn right, and there is room to do so.
• stay in our lane if traffic is moving slowly in queues. If the queue on your right is moving more slowly than you are, you may pass on the left.
• give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car

Remember Mirrors-Signal-Manoeuvre.”
If you want to overtake a vehicle, all the general considerations of speed, lookout, and lines of sight apply — plus a good dose of extra care.
The reality is if you’re overtaking and collide with an oncoming vehicle, you’re likely to be held completely or substantially liable. As an overtaker you’re not entitled to expect extraordinary vigilance or reaction from any oncoming vehicle driver.

The oncoming driver will get the benefit of the so- called “agony rule” — where you’re faced with an emergency situation not of your own making, your response will not be weighed too finely in the balance.

Similarly, if you’re overtaking, you’re not entitled to rely on the vehicle you’re passing to slow down and let you in. Whilst this is no doubt the proper response from the overtaken driver, a court is unlikely to find fault with them if they don’t.