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Who’s at fault for an accident FAQs

I was injured when a police van ran into me. Can I make a claim against the police or are they exempt from claims since they're a government body?

Generally, government bodies are not exempt from personal injury claims. You can make a claim against the police on the same basis as you would claim against any other organisation whose employee injured you.

I was hurt when I tripped and fell over a big piece of loose carpet in a corridor at work. I knew about the loose carpet (since it had been that way for some time) but I just wasn't paying attention. Is the accident entirely my fault?

The accident is probably your employer's fault rather than yours. You employer was probably negligent and in breach of its statutory duty. You should report the accident to the health and safety officer at your workplace, ensure it is recorded in the accident book, get medical attention for your injury, and see a solicitor about making a claim.

I was shopping and a shop assistant who was stocking the shelves accidently dropped something on my foot, giving me two broken toes. I have to stand up for my job, and therefore have had to miss several days of work. I think I should be able to get compensation, but do I make my claim against the shop assistant or the shop owner?

As the shop assistant was acting in the course of his employment when he accidently injured you, you can almost certainly claim against the shop owner. As the shop assistant's employer, the shop owner will have vicarious liability for an injury caused by his employee.

If I go onto a railway platform to wait for my train, is the railway company automatically liable for any injury whatsoever that I sustain whilst on the platform – even if it's the result of a chain of events set off by a freak accident that no one really could have foreseen?

The railway company will not be strictly liable to you for any and all injuries that you might sustain while standing on the platform. To establish that the railway company is liable for your injury, you need to show that it resulted either from the railway's breach of some statutory duty (under the health and safety laws, for instance) or the railway company's negligence.

Assuming the freak accident did not happen because the railway breached its statutory duty, you probably will not have a claim against the railway company. That is because one of the necessary elements of liability for negligence – foreseeability – appears to be missing. To hold a person liable for negligence, you need to establish that the harm you suffered was foreseeable.

I was driving my car in a roundabout. I was in a rush, so I was going a little bit over the speed limit. As I was about halfway to my exit, another car pulled into the roundabout – right in front of me. We collided. Who's to blame for the accident? The other driver clearly did not give me my right of way.

The other driver was at fault for failing to yield the right of way but you will probably have to bear some of the responsibility too. The fact that you were speeding would most likely lead a court to find that there was contributory negligence on your part – and they will reduce your compensation in proportion to the degree they find you at fault for causing the accident.

I was driving and I rear-ended another car that was stopped at a traffic signal. I saw the other car in plenty of time, but I only recently passed my driving test and I didn't hit the brakes soon enough. Cars always seem to stop so fast when you're a passenger, but it's different when you're in the driving seat. You really have to react quickly. The other driver says I am 100% responsible, but wouldn't a judge cut me some slack because of my inexperience?

No, it is unlikely the court will not hold you to a lesser standard of care because you are an inexperienced driver. It will hold you fully accountable for causing the accident unless there is evidence that the other driver did something wrong – for instance, he may have failed to maintain the brake lights on his car.

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