The rear-end shunt – Is the Following Driver Always To Blame?

When it comes to rear-end motor vehicle collisions, there is a strong assumption that the rear vehicle is 100% at fault regardless of whether the driver of the first vehicle drove in a way that may have contributed to the accident.

The common belief “you should be able to stop in time no matter what the circumstances” is very entrenched in our general thinking. However, whist this is true in a majority of cases, the courts have, on occasion, found the driver of the front vehicle to be partly responsible for rear-end shunts.

Cases of negligence

The most common scenario in which the courts will apportion blame is when the driver of the first vehicle brakes without warning, and the second vehicle, unable to stop in time, drives into them. In order to apportion part of the blame, the driver in the rear vehicle must show negligence on the part of the driver of the front vehicle.

What is negligence?

Understanding negligence can be quite difficult for a lay-person without any legal knowledge or background, but it is something that can be useful to be aware of.

The famous definition of negligence is taken from a case held over 100 years ago, but is still in place today. It is either:

• The omission to do something which a reasonable man would normally do in the situation


• Doing something that a reasonable person would not do in those circumstances

Proving negligence

When it comes to proving negligence in a motor vehicle accident of any kind, witnesses are crucial in assisting the court to establish the facts.

This was highlighted in one case from three years ago . This involved, a woman – Margaret Anderson – being rear-end shunted by a lorry driven by a Warburton’s employee.

She was driving on a dual carriageway and overtook a lorry. She then noticed smoke coming from the rear of her car and realised she needed to stop. According to her argument in court, she didn’t see the sign for an upcoming lay-by, and stopped just at the end of it. Her car was partially sticking out onto the carriageway and it was here that she was struck by the lorry.

A police officer who gave evidence stated that the claimant could have pulled her car further over to the left so it was not protruding over the white line marking the edge of the carriageway. A witness to the accident gave evidence that the driver of the lorry gradually reduced his speed to 20-25mph and the smoke became so thick that at one point he (the witness) could no longer see the lorry.

Who’s to blame?

The judge held that blame should be apportioned 2/3 to Mrs. Anderson and 1/3 to the lorry driver on account that although he had slowed down he was still driving too fast for the conditions. Margaret Anderson had to take a greater portion of the responsibility as the judge ruled that her panic was not sufficient reason for not seeing and using the lay-by to park her car safely. Also when she did stop her car, she could have manoeuvred it into a safer position further off the carriageway.

Will the shunter ever be blameless?

It is rare for the shunter to be held totally blameless. In another case, from the 60s , the driver of the rear vehicle was held to be 20% liable even though the lorry that he drove into was found to have no rear lights or reflector, and it was blocking half of a snow-covered road at the time of the accident.

It has happened however, in a case from 2000 . Due to vehicle defects, the driver of a lorry came to an immediate halt without the rear brake lights activating. The cars immediately behind the lorry were able to swerve onto the hard shoulder, however, there was nowhere for the driver of a lorry travelling behind the cars to go.

The driver was not travelling at excessive speed, and although he applied his brakes, he was not able to stop in time to avoid rear-shunting the lorry in front of him.

The judge held that safe driving speeds and distances were those at which a driver was capable of dealing with foreseeable events. The immediate and abrupt halt of a lorry did not fit into this category of a foreseeable event, in this case.

It all depends on the circumstances

It always depends on the individual circumstances of the case, as no two accidents will ever be the same. This means that cases involving rear-end shunts are considered on a case-by-case basis. It’s therefore important to seek legal advice as soon as possible, especially if you sustained a personal injury in the accident.

For more information on car accident claims, view our dedicated page. To find out what you may be entitled to and to get our expert ‘no win, no fee’ solicitors on board with your car accident claim, contact Injury Lawyers 4U today on 0845 345 4444. Alternatively, fill in the form to arrange a call back at your convenience from one of our team.

Rearward Facing Car Seats – Time for a Re-Think?

In 2009 the British Medical Journal published an article on the significant safety benefits of keeping children in rearward-facing seating when travelling in a motor vehicle. Now, five years after this paper was released, how accessible is information regarding the benefits of keeping your child rearward-facing for as long as possible? Has the United Kingdom changed its official guidelines regarding rearward-facing car seats? And finally, are they readily available in high street stores or do parents still have to import them from abroad?

The key points from the 2009 article are as follows:

• Many babies are switched from a rearward-facing car seat to a forward facing seat at nine kilograms (eight months of age for a boy on the 50th centile for weight)
• Excessive stretching or even severing of the spinal cord can result if a child is involved in a head-on crash while in a forward facing car seat
• Rearward-facing seats are safer than forward facing seats for children under four years old
• Parents and guardians should be advised to keep young children in rearward-facing seats for as long as possible

The above points are taken from the original article which you can view here in full.

What happens in a motor vehicle accident when a young child is facing forward in their car seat?

In a young child, the head constitutes 25% of their body weight. Their bones are still developing so they are soft and consist mainly of cartilage. This allows them to tumble down stairs or fall off playground equipment and, apart from a few tears, often emerge relatively unscathed.

However, in a high-impact, frontal motor vehicle collision, this works against them in a terrible way. The weight of the head, when it is flung forward, can stretch the neck to the point where the spine snaps, causing internal decapitation. Due a child’s ribcage being soft, the internal organs are not protected against the tremendous force being pushed onto them by their car seat harness and the damage caused can be fatal.

Parent’s access to information

The internet can provide a wealth of information regarding the safety benefits of rearward-facing car seats for children up to four years of age. However:

• Many parents are not in a financial position to pay for an internet connection
• Some families do not speak English as their first language and are therefore limited to the amount of information they can access from British websites
• Lack of education and understanding can limit an individual’s ability to research and understand the information that may be available

Unfortunately, lack of accurate, easily obtainable information is one of the key reasons why even well-educated parents are unaware of the importance of keeping their child rearward-facing as long as possible.

Has the United Kingdom changed its official guidelines?

Some countries, including the United States and New Zealand, have changed their regulations and official guidelines to recommend children remain rearward-facing up until two years of age. Sweden’s official recommendations state that parents keep children rearward-facing until they are 4 years old (contrary to popular belief, this is not enshrined in law).

At present in the United Kingdom babies over nine kilograms (around eight to nine months old) can be forward-facing. However, new European Union regulations which were ratified by the UK in July 2013, known as the i-Size Regulations (or UN R129), state that children should remain rearward-facing until they are at least 15 months old. i-Size also requires that an ISOFIX click-and-go system is used to fit the car seat rather than the car’s own seatbelts. This reduces the chance of the car seat being fitted incorrectly. However, these new regulations will run alongside the existing regulations for the next few years.

Therefore, you can still buy and safely use car seats which comply with the current ECE R44/04. This is causing confusion among parents as they are no longer sure which regulations to follow. Again, uncertainty often arises due to lack of readily accessible information.

Have rearward-facing car seats become more available?

As recently as 2011 it was extremely difficult to purchase a rearward-facing car seat, suitable for a child up to four years of age in the United Kingdom. Caroline Green, mother of a three year old daughter says “The only reason I knew about the benefits of rearward-facing car seats was because my brother worked for Volvo and was involved in some of their safety testing”. She goes on to say; “It really frustrated me that I could not walk into a high street shop and purchase a rearward-facing car seat, I had to do a lot of research to find a stockist”.

Some high street retailers are now stocking rearward-facing car seat brands such as Maxi-cosi and Britax, however, the number is still fairly limited and the price is prohibitive to many individuals.

Sadly, at this point in time, many parents, especially those belonging to socio-economically deprived groups, are unable to give their child what could a be life-saving advantage in a motor vehicle accident. This is due to lack of knowledge, advice, and the current difficulty and expense of obtaining a rearward-facing car seat for children up to four years of age.

On Your Bike – Keeping Safe on the Roads

When it comes to health and general well-being few activities can match cycling.  You have all the benefits of being outdoors, exercising and you can get to where you want to go for free.  Sadly, despite all these positive advantages, cyclists are the most vulnerable people on our roads and every year many of them suffer injury or tragically lose their lives.

Here are a few facts that highlight the risks cyclists take every time they venture out on the roads:

• In 2012, 118 cyclists lost their lives on Britain’s roads, up by 10 per cent on the previous year.

• 6 people were killed on bikes in less than two weeks on London roads in November 2013.

• Accidents whereby cyclists suffered serious injuries were up by 4 per cent to 3,222 in 2012.

So what are the main causes of death or serious injury to cyclists?  More importantly, how can cyclists protect themselves so they can stay safe on Britain’s roads?

According to a recent report by The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), the most common contributory factor to motor vehicle collisions with cyclists recorded by police is “failure to look properly”.   In 57 per cent of cases the driver of the vehicle failed to do this and in 43 per cent of cases it was the cyclist.  Many accidents occur when cyclists are entering the road from the pavement. Additionally, drivers turning or manoeuvring without proper care accounts for 17 per cent of serious accidents in the UK.

Whilst cars and taxis are the most common type of vehicle involved in road traffic collisions with cyclists, heavy vehicles pose a particular danger, especially in London.  To illustrate this, in November 2013 when six cyclists were killed in less than two weeks in the nation’s capital it was found five of the accidents involved a truck, bus or coach. Statistics also show that accidents commonly occur when a cyclist is turning left at a junction or if a large vehicle such as a bus passes too close.

So what can a cyclist do to protect themselves when they are on the road?

Wear a helmet

According to a RoSPA report from 2013, head injuries are extremely common in cycling accidents.  In a study of 116 cyclists it was found head injuries occurred in 70 per cent of the fatal accidents in London and 80 per cent of fatal accidents on rural roads.

A comprehensive study done in America in 2009 found that wearing a helmet reduced the risk of head and brain injury by 63 per cent to 88 per cent even if a car was involved.  The authors of the study concluded “Helmets reduce bicycle-related head and facial injuries for cyclists of all ages involved in all types of crashes, including those involving motor vehicles.”

Although it may mess up your hairstyle, there is no denying that wearing a cycle helmet is the best thing you can do to reduce your chances of receiving serious or even fatal head injuries if you are involved in a cycling accident.

Make Sure You Are Visible

Use the lights on your bike in bad weather conditions and after dark, and ensure you wear brightly coloured, reflective clothing.

Cycle Defensively

Make sure you make eye-contact with other drivers and always indicate your intentions when turning or stopping by using the correct hand signals.  Be aware of cars parking who may open their car door without seeing you approach and ride the width of a car door away from parked cars.  Avoid cycling on the inside of trucks and buses as they may not be able to see you.  If you are cycling on the inside of a large vehicle they may be unable to see you when they make a left turn manoeuvre so be very aware of the vehicle’s movements and indication.

Cycling is a healthy, fun activity which can be enjoyed by people of all ages.  By taking a few simple precautions you can enjoy riding your bike and avoid any nasty injuries.

Road Accidents – Your Next Steps

Road accidents sometimes happen due to no fault of our own.  The results can vary dramatically. Whether you are the victim of a huge pile-up or a crash that means your car is completely unfixable, both incidents will need to be addressed accordingly.

If you feel like you have been left a little confused by the whole ordeal and feel a little unsure about what to do after the event of the accident, a wise decision would be to invest in the help of an accident specialist. He or she will be able to tell you a little more about road accident claims.

Vehicle collisions

As well as the general public, someone that works alongside vehicles can often become subject to a road related injuries. Just as a window cleaner is more susceptible to a fall from a height, those that work on the road are more vulnerable to a vehicle related injury.

Quite often this is due to a lack of concentration. Phone calls, other cars, eating and texting sometimes distract drivers. Even though all these acts should be avoided at all costs whilst operating a vehicle, many people quite simply can’t resist the temptation.

In order to warn drivers of such accidents, some employers will explain the risks to their drivers prior to them beginning the role. Distracting activities are in fact the cause of the majority of road related incidents. This is quite frustrating, especially when each and every one of the above activities can be avoided.

Making a claim

Most road related incidents end in a claim. The insurance will only cover a small cost of a new car and most drivers will need extra funds in order to help them gain a full recovery. Compensation will cover the likes of medical costs, living costs and vehicle repairs.

In order to make a claim you will need to contact a road accident claims specialist. He or she will then be able to guide you through the entire procedure. More often than not, they will only require a small amount of information from you. Once they have received this, they will then allow you to get on with your life whilst they work on getting you every penny you deserve.

You will receive regular phone calls and emails in order to tell you how the case is going. Once the claim has been made and a cost has been settled, the solicitor will take his or her fees out of the other parties’ contribution. This means that you won’t be required to pay a penny out of your own back pocket.

Life after an accident

Getting back into a car after a crash may seem like a daunting experience, however if you don’t do it as soon as possible after the event, you may never be able to get in a vehicle again.

Take it slowly and allow yourself enough time for a full recovery. Going back to work too early could result in adverse effects.

If you require physiotherapy in order to mend damaged muscles, be sure to follow all the advice given by your therapist.

Funeral for Army Officer Killed in Car Accident

Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales was brought to a halt on Thursday as over 500 people turned out for the funeral of Lance Corporal Lee Foley who died in a horrific car crash on New Years Eve after being mown down by a taxi.

He had been on leave from his regiment at the time of the car accident which happened at 10.10pm. The taxi was a black Vauxhall Astra estate. He received treatment on the spot from paramedics and was taken to hospital where later he died from his injuries.

Lee Foley had served in Afghanistan as a member of the Royal Engineers 22 Regiment where he had played a key role over the last three years. His commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Jason Kerr said at the funeral that it had been a pleasure to have Lee under his charge. He described how Foley understood the fundamentals of being a soldier, adding that he always maintained high standards of discipline and was always courteous and professional. In particular, he said, “he had a humility that endeared him to all that worked with him.”

Lance Corporal Lee Foley joined the Royal Engineers in 2006. In 2008 he was assigned to 5 Armoured Engineer Squadron at Perham Down and subsequently he had a six-month tour of duty in Afghanistan.

His death was the second fatal accident in the vicinity for a serving soldier in the same week. Edward Heal of the King’s Royal Hussars was hit and killed by a car on Christmas Day.