Establishing Liability in Road Traffic Accidents

18 August 2021 
2 minutes
Personal Injury Claims

For a negligence claim to succeed in a road traffic claim a plaintiff must prove the following:

that they were owed a duty of care; and
there was a breach of duty of care; and
that the breach caused the injury (causation); and
that the injury was reasonably foreseeable.

Duty of care

Road users owe a duty of care to all other road users – this includes motorists, pedestrians, horse riders and cyclists. The standard of care expected by motorists is that of the ordinary skilled driver.

The landmark case of Nettleship v Weston [1971] held that even though the defendant was a learner driver the standard of care could not be lowered. Accordingly, learner drivers are held to the same standard of care as a reasonably competent driver.

Breach of duty of care

The defendant’s liability in a road traffic accident normally arises as a result of negligence. The vast majority of cases we deal with involve drivers who have caused accidents as a result of failing to pay adequate attention and consideration to other road users.

In general claimants will always recover full damages unless there is a defence of causation or contributory negligence. For example, in the case of Froom v Butcher [1976] the plaintiff’s damages were reduced due to the fact the plaintiff failed to wear a seatbelt.


There must be a causal relationship between the conduct (i.e., the negligent act) and the damage sustained. The question legal representatives will ask is “But for the accident, would my client have suffered the injury or loss?”.


The plaintiff can only recover reasonably foreseeable loss that can be shown to follow as a direct consequence of the breach. Remote loss or injuries that cannot be directly linked to the subject accident will be classified as unforeseeable and therefore will not satisfy this part of the test.

If you have sustained injuries as a result of a road traffic accident that was not your fault, please contact Mollie Thompson in MKB Law’s Disputes department.

Contact Mollie

Mollie Thompson
Trainee Solicitor
028 9099 3141

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This article is for general guidance only and should not be regarded as a substitute for professional legal advice.


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