Driver liability
Driver liability

The following PI & Clinical Negligence practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Driver liability
  • General principles
  • Speed
  • Overtaking and queue-jumping
  • Emerging from a minor road
  • Misleading signals
  • Braking, skidding and duty of the following driver
  • Vehicle lighting
  • Multi-vehicle accident

Most road traffic cases turn on their particular facts.

There are few hard and fast rules, and disapproval of the excessive citation of authority has been expressed in several cases (see, for example, Foskett v Mistry [1984] RTR 1 (not reported by LexisNexis®)).

Despite such judicial reservations, a body of case law has evolved over the past century that provides helpful guidance in a number of familiar situations. Provided that decisions on the facts of particular cases are not mistaken for principles of law, previous decisions often give a helpful indication of how the issue of liability is likely to be resolved.

General principles

A driver must not assume that another driver will be sensible and careful (see Truscott v McLaren [1982] RTR 34 (not reported by LexisNexis®)).

Rule 147 of the Highway Code advises drivers to be careful of and considerate towards all types of road users. Drivers should be patient, remembering that anyone can make a mistake.

In a dangerous situation, a driver is not negligent if, on the spur of the moment, they exercise such care as may reasonably be expected, even if that was not quite the correct action in the circumstances (see Tocci v Hankard (No 2) (1966) 110 Sol Jo 835 (not reported by LexisNexis®)).


High speed alone is not necessarily evidence of negligence unless the particular conditions at the time preclude it.

A claimant who was speeding at the time of the accident will not necessarily have

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