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Tired Bakery Van Driver Solely Responsible for Catastrophic Motorway Pile-Up

Motorway collisions commonly involve multiple vehicles and it can be a very difficult forensic task to discern where responsibility for them lies. The High Court, however, rose to the challenge in ruling that a bakery van driver was solely to blame for one such accident in which two people suffered catastrophic injuries.

The events began when the van driver fell asleep at the wheel whilst travelling on a motorway at night. He crashed into the back of a lorry and his van ended up in the middle lane of the three-lane carriageway. Soon afterwards an Audi collided with the stranded and unlit van before ricocheting into the lorry. The Audi's driver and his passenger escaped serious injury at that stage and were able to walk away from the wreckage and make their way over the hard shoulder to the grass verge.

That, however, was not the end of the matter: a Vauxhall van approached the scene and also collided with the stationary bakery van. The Vauxhall spun across the road and struck the Audi driver and passenger where they stood on the verge. They were gravely injured and launched a claim for substantial damages against both van drivers' insurers.

Ruling on the matter, the Court rejected arguments that the Audi driver had himself been negligent. As he approached the scene, he might realistically have had as little as five seconds to react. In the agony of the moment, he swerved to avoid colliding with the back of the slowing lorry and was likely to have had no opportunity to brake safely and avoid hitting the stranded bakery van.

The Vauxhall driver also bore no responsibility for the accident and the Court found that the bakery van driver's negligence was the root cause of the whole sequence of events. The ruling meant that his insurers would bear the entire cost of fairly compensating the Audi driver and passenger.