Delivery driver misses turn and slams on brakes

On the 28th of October 2020, Chris was on a leisurely ride home on his Moto Guzzi Griso after visiting a friend. He was travelling north-east on the A70 to the south of West Calder. Chris was riding behind a white delivery van. Not long after the junction with the B7008, the van suddenly performed an emergency stop without any warning. Chris had no opportunity to stop in time and collided with the back of the van.

Although injured, Chris was able to get to his feet and ask the van driver why he had stopped so suddenly. The driver responded that he had no idea that Chris was behind him, so Chris must have been riding too close behind. Chris pointed out the obvious which was that if the van driver hadn’t seen him, how he could possibly say he had been riding too close behind. As the conversation progressed, it became clear that the van driver had intended to take the B7008 to West Calder as part of his delivery route but had missed his turn and so performed the emergency stop without indicating or checking his mirrors.

Whilst Chris got away relatively lightly in terms of his injuries, his motorcycle had not fared so well. Chris called his insurers who arranged for his motorcycle to be recovered from the scene. After an assessment, Chris was offered Chris the value of the motorcycle minus a £300 excess. At this point, Chris got in touch with Motorcycle Law Scotland.

Chris was put straight through to one of our specialist motorcycling lawyers. A vehicle travelling in front that performs an emergency stop with traffic behind must give a valid reason as to why they performed the emergency stop. We advised Chris that missing a turn is not a valid reason to carry out an emergency stop and agreed to take on his case.

We immediately intimated his claim for injury, policy excess and damaged motorcycle equipment to the insurers of the delivery van. Liability was denied on the basis Chris had been riding too close behind. We responded by asking how could they say how close if the driver hadn’t seen him in the first place?

Many believe that if you hit the vehicle in front, then you are automatically to blame. That is not the Law. We referred the third-party insurer to one of our earlier Court successes, Leslie O’Donnell v Lisa Smith and Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance PLC. In that case, Ms Smith hit her brakes and Leslie who was travelling behind could not stop in time. He collided with the rear of her vehicle. Liability was denied on the basis Leslie had failed to maintain a sufficient gap. The defenders argued in Court that he should have been able to stop his vehicle before hitting the car.Leslie O'Donnell collision locusAfter a full hearing of the evidence, the Sheriff found in favour of the motorcyclist as Ms Smith’s explanation for the emergency stop was that she had braked too sharply after becoming apprehensive about motorcyclists behind. In the judgement the Sheriff noted

“the mere fact of one vehicle having collided with the rear of another vehicle in front does not of itself give rise to the presumption that the driver of the following vehicle has been negligent.”

Confident that the Court would scrutinise the conduct of the van driver as to why he had performed the emergency stop, we raised a Court Action for Chris. The Defenders continued to deny fault stating the van driver had not been negligent in carrying out an emergency stop for a missed junction. The Defenders kept up this denial of liability until less than a month before the case was due to call in court, when they finally made an offer to settle.

At Motorcycle Law Scotland, we will always look carefully at the circumstances surrounding any collision. As motorcyclists, we understand what it’s like to be faced with a situation when a driver if front brakes sharply for no good reason. As Lawyers, we understand the law and there is no presumption of negligence if one vehicle collides with the rear of another.


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