Insurance advice: Made to pay for Amber gamble that went bad

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I was hurt quite badly in an accident, which was caused by the driver in front of me suddenly slamming on his brakes at a set of traffic lights. The light switched to amber and I thought he was going for it, so I did too. Unfortunately he changed his mind, but it was too late for me. I tried to stop but was unable to do so in time and went over the top of the car. I want to make a claim for my out-of-pocket expenses and injuries now that I am out of hospital, but the police officer says not to bother as it’s my fault! Surely I deserve something. He braked too late.

Graham Lovell, Somerset

Answered by Andrew Campbell, Solicitor and author of the MCN Law column.

The rule is that you should leave sufficient space between you and the vehicle in front to allow you time to safely stop. Therefore the majority of rear-end shunts are the fault of the person behind, for either driving too close or not concentrating. However, in certain cases the driver who suddenly stops can be held at partial fault.

In one such case a judge decided that a driver who slammed on her brakes to avoid a pheasant, causing the driver behind to run into her car, was found to have been negligent to stop “merely” for a pheasant. In your case the driver stopped for an amber light as is required, except when to do so is likely to cause an accident. It is on this last bit that you would have to pin your hopes. I imagine most judges will find against you, but you may find a sympathetic one. If I were you I would make an early split liability offer, with you accepting the majority of the blame. I would be reluctant to take this to court.

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