Rear end shunts – who is at fault?

Cars in traffic close to each other

If another driver causes their vehicle to collide with the rear of yours, there is fault on their part. 

Rule 126 of the Highway Code states: 

"Leave enough space between you and the vehicle in front so that you can pull up safely if it suddenly stops. The safe rule is never to get closer than the overall stopping distance."

In a case involving a rear end shunt, there is a presumption of fault on the part of the driver of the vehicle at the rear. 

It would be easy to assume if your vehicle is shunted from the rear by another vehicle that you will automatically win your personal injury case and receive compensation for your injuries and other losses.

However, as with all personal injury cases, the burden of proving fault lies with the individual pursuing the claim who must prove how the accident occurred and why the other driver is at fault. 

Cases which initially appear straightforward can become more complex when detailed facts emerge. 

Fortunately, most people are honest and will admit fault when they have caused an accident but sadly this is not always the case. 

For example, when a driver later claims a rear end shunt did not occur and they allege it was the pursuer who caused the collision. In that scenario, there is a dispute between the parties on the facts.

Helping prove who is at fault in a rear end shunt

It is vital to obtain independent evidence to support your version of events if such evidence is available. 

The credibility and reliability of each party will be crucial when a court decides who is to be believed but independent evidence in your favour is of paramount importance. 

Vehicle damage

Vehicle damage can be useful but will not always be conclusive when assessing who is at fault as the damage could be the same or similar regardless of whether the other driver has collided with your vehicle or you have reversed into the front of theirs.

Witnesses to the road traffic crash

If there are any witnesses to your accident, make sure you note their details and call the police to ensure they have a record of your version of events. 

Report to insurance company

Make sure you accurately report the circumstances of your accident to your own insurance company. 

The record of the call can be recovered at a later date. 

Treating medical practitioners and your employer

Provide a detailed and accurate description of the accident circumstances to any treating medical practitioners and to your employer, particularly if you were driving a work vehicle or you require time off work due to your injuries. 

Written exchanges with other driver

If you have any correspondence from the other driver admitting fault, such as emails or text messages, make sure to keep these.  

It is essential that you preserve any evidence which will help you establish fault at a later date.

There may be a presumption that the driver of the vehicle who struck you was responsible for the accident but it is up to you to prove it.

Darrell Kaye

Darrell Kaye, Partner 
Ayr office