Generally speaking if Person A caused his or her motor vehicle to crash into the back of Person B’s motor vehicle, then Person A would be at fault. This is of course a typical rear end shunt scenario whereby liability is usually attached to the driver who drove his or her vehicle into collision with the vehicle in front. As a driver myself, this must be the correct decision as you have no control over the vehicle that is driving behind you. However in some strange and unusual circumstances Person B in the above scenario could be held at fault.
You would generally have to look at the reason why Person B stopped so suddenly and without warning. When a sudden stop was made due to a traffic sign or signal, the driver is highly unlikely to be held at fault if another vehicle crashes into the back of him.
There may be a need to stop suddenly if, for example, a child runs out into the road. In this scenario it is of course reasonable to stop suddenly and it is highly unlikely that you would be held at fault if another vehicle crashes into the back of you. I could never say that it is impossible to be held at fault in these situations as every case is taken on its own facts.
You could be at fault if you stopped suddenly and without warning for no good reason. Even if your vehicle was not involved in the accident itself, you could still be held at fault. Say for example Vehicle A stopped suddenly and without good reason, Vehicle B managed to stop in time but Vehicle C crashed into the back of Vehicle B. If there was no good reason for Vehicle A to stop suddenly then they may be held liable for the accident. In these cases of extenuating circumstances the person who stopped suddenly may be at fault. There is no strict rule on this area of law as every case is considered based on its own unique facts. It appears that the questions that must be asked are:
- What caused the diver to stop so suddenly and without warning?
- Was it reasonable for the driver to stop so suddenly and without warning?
In Gussman v Gratton-Storey the Defendant applied her breaks violently in order to avoid hitting a pheasant running across the road. The driver behind was unable to stop and collided with the Defendant’s vehicle. The Defendant was held liable so in this case the sudden stop was in effect held to be unreasonable. The lead driver was held liable in this case. You can see the difficult precedent that this case sets. It leaves a difficult decision as to just when it is reasonable to stop suddenly. For example, would one animal running into the road cause a reasonable sudden stop and another animal running into the road cause a sudden stop that was unreasonable? It is a bit like deciding which animals you can drive over and which you must treat as though it were a human.
Each case is considered on its facts; if you collided into the back of another vehicle then it is likely that a Court would hold you at fault. However if the car in front stopped suddenly without any or any good reason, then the driver of the vehicle that stopped suddenly may be at fault. Say the driver stopped suddenly due to ducks in the road, a Court may say that this was an insufficient reason to brake and stop suddenly.
Such cases may inevitably result in huge liability arguments. There may be a disagreement as to who is at fault. Therefore it is essential that you seek independent legal advice.
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