Is it Ever the Car in Fronts Fault for a Crash from Behind?


Last time we looked at whose fault is it in a car crash if someone crashes into the back of another car. It is a general rule of thumb that 'it is the person who hits a car from behind who's at fault for the accident'. But is this always the case? Can it ever be 100% the car in fronts fault? In this blog we look at a case where the court (at first) decided it was.

Is it ever the car in fronts fault for a crash from behind?

While it is very rare for a rear shunt to be ruled that it was entirely the car in fronts fault for causing the accident, in the case of Ali v D'brass a judge decided it was the front car's fault for the crash from behind and dismissed the driver's personal injury claim. The claimant however appealed, claiming that it was the person behinds fault for driving too closely.

Crash From Behind: The Car in Front

In this case, a BMW and a Transit van were both travelling along a dual carriageway. There had been a previous incident between the two when a car had undertook them both and pulled in front of the first car (the BMW) causing him to brake, making the Transit (who was around two car lengths behind) narrowly avoid crashing into the back of him.

As they were building up speed following the incident, the BMW, again, slammed on its brakes causing the transit to crash into the back of it. There had been no hazard and the driver of the BMW had seemingly braked suddenly without warning or reason.

The judge threw out the BMW drivers personal injury claim for the car accident because he decided the accident was entirely his fault.

It is very rare that the entire blame was given to the car in front and the driver injured in the accident had their compensation claim thrown out. The vast majority of the time the courts will rule for the person who was crashed into. If someone crashed into the back of your vehicle and you suffered an injury visit our Road Traffic Accident section to find out how we have helped people win compensation for whiplash or other injuries after they have been hit from behind by another car, or call now on 0808 129 3320 or enquire online now and we'll call you back to find out how we can help.

Car in Front to Blame

The BMW driver appealed on the basis that if he was to blame then the Transit driver was also partly to blame because he had been driving too closely and it's the driver behind's responsibility to avoid the crash, even if the person in front stopped suddenly.

The appeal court had to decide if this were true and if so how much each person was liable, or to blame, for the accident (contributory negligence).

The original judge had declared the BMW, the car in front, caused the accident because he had applied the brakes without warning and for no good reason. He continued that it was the BMW's fault for braking negligently or recklessly when there was no hazard. The judge, however, accepted that the transit van's positioning was inadequate and that he was driving too closely to the car in front.

The Appeals Court found that, while the BMW had braked dangerously, both cars were to blame for the crash. The BMW had braked without warning but, if the Transit had been far enough away from the car in front, it would have avoided an accident. The Highway Code is explicitly clear about stopping distances:

'Drive at a speed that will allow you to stop well within the distance you can see to be clear. You should leave enough space between you and the vehicle in front so that you can pull up safely if it suddenly slows down or stops. The safe rule is never to get closer than the overall stopping distance.'

For 30mph it gives the stopping distance as 6 car lengths. For 40 mph it gives the stopping distance as 9 car lengths. In this case the van was only half a car length behind the BMW.

The judge apportioned most of the blame (60%) to the car behind (the Transit Van) and 40% to the car in front (the BMW).

Slamming on Brakes to Cause a Crash

It is only on the rare occasion a court will judge that it was the car in front that caused the accident - often when it can be proven that the front car purposefully cuts in front of someone and slams on their brakes in order to make a fraudulent compensation claim.

In this case the appeal found the van mainly at fault: his positioning was poor and was driving too close to the car in front. If the driver of the BMW had legitimately needed to brake it is likely 100% of the fault or liability would have been the Transit's. In this case it was 60%. They also said the BMW was 40% liable for the accident for slamming on the brakes and stopping suddenly. Both the sudden braking of the BMW and the driving too closely by the Transit van caused the crash.

How many occasions have we seen, heard, or even been involved in road rage incidents where one car tailgates another; either because the car behind is trying to force them to speed up, they don't like their driving style, a perceived slight or some other reason? Its worth remembering no matter how the vehicle in front is being driven the responsibility is still with the car behind to be a safe distance away to avoid any unforeseen manoeuvre of the car in front.

'The driver behind is always to blame' ...Consider that if you find yourself driving closely behind someone on any road. Remember the importance of stopping distances and being far enough away from the car in front so you can stop and be safe. If you don't, in the event of an accident it's likely the court will find that the majority of the blame will be yours.

At Simpson Millar LLP (formerly Colemans) our Motor Department can help you if you have been involved in a road traffic accident that wasn't your fault. If someone crashed into the back of your car or were rear ended into another car and suffered an injury you may be able to claim compensation. We have a wide range of experience on injury compensation claims after a car accident and can help you. Call now on 0808 129 3320 or make a claim online now and we'll call you back to find out how we can help.

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