Can I make an injury claim if I hit a car that braked suddenly?

It's a commonly held misconception that, in all cases, if a driver crashes into a car ahead that brakes suddenly, then the driver behind is always to blame. In reality, which driver is held liable, and to what extent liability is apportioned, will depend on the circumstances.

Heavy motorway traffic

Safe separation distance

Accidents caused by drivers driving too close to the vehicle in front (tailgating) are common. According to a survey carried out by the road accident charity 'Brake', 6 out of 10 drivers admit to tailgating. 95% of drivers stated that they were regularly concerned by tailgating drivers. cites the well known '2-Second Rule', which recommends a 2 second separation from the car in front in dry road conditions.

The 2-Second Rule is intended to allow for both thinking and braking distance. This simple time based rule has the benefit of increasing the distance between vehicles as speed increases.

It is recommended that separation is increased to 4 seconds in the wet, and further increased if there is ice or snow.

In 2018, the DVLA Handbook was revised and it now recommends lessening of the full stopping distance in urban traffic. This recommendation is likely down to efforts to tackle urban congestion.

In summary, drivers should be aware of the events unfolding ahead of them. They should maintain adequate distance to avert a collision if the vehicle ahead stops suddenly and unexpectedly. The appropriate distance will depend on the driving conditions and circumstances.

Claiming compensation for an injury

If you were injured in a collision with a vehicle in front of you that braked without warning, you may be able to make a road accident compensation claim. Whether a claim will succeed will depend on the circumstances of your accident.

If, for example, a driver braked suddenly to avoid a child in the road, the courts may decide that that the driver in front had 'reasonable cause' to carry out an emergency stop. A such, liability for the injury is more likely to lie with the driver behind who should have maintained greater separation from the vehicle in front.

If the driver braked suddenly for a reason deemed to be 'not essential' (such as a small animal in the road) the court might regard the driver ahead as negligent and rule in favour of the driver behind.

It might also be decided that there was contributory negligence on the part of both parties. The driver ahead might have braked without reason, but the injuries of the driver behind might have been less severe had they maintained greater separation from the car in front.

If it is established that both parties shouldered a degree of blame, a split-liability agreement might be reached.

See also:

Can I claim for an injury as a victim of a 'Crash for Cash'?

Can I claim for an injury if I'm partly to blame for an accident?

How much compensation can I claim if injured when the driver ahead braked suddenly?

It may be that you sustained an injury as the driver on front, or behind, in a collision. It could be that both drivers have been injured.

Injury compensation is be calculated by adding together:

General Damages

‘General damages’ is the term used for compensation awarded for pain, suffering and loss of amenity (PSLA). General damages are calculated based on the type of injury or illness, and the severity.

Special Damages

Special damages are awarded for any financial losses and expenses you have incurred as a result of your injury. Such losses might include: lost earnings, medical treatment costs, physiotherapy. travel costs and the cost of adapting your home or car following an injury.

Calculate my injury compensation

Calculating how much compensation you can claim for an injury can be complicated.

Our injury compensation calculator tells you if you may have a claim, how much compensation you could claim, and what you can claim for.

Find out what your injury claim could be worth now:

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What happened?

The claims process for a road traffic injury will depend on where and how the accident happened. Click the icons below for more information:

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