No liability for a reasonable driver’s emergency stop

The court has supported a driver – and the bus company employing him – whose emergency braking caused a passenger on the top deck to suffer serious injury.

24 January 2014

The court has supported a driver – and the bus company employing him – whose emergency braking caused a passenger on the top deck to suffer serious injury. The common-sense decision should reassure drivers that they will not be liable for doing their job properly and taking emergency action, even where that has the unfortunate and unintended consequence of causing injury to a passenger.

In Cridland v Stagecoach, a driver made an emergency stop when a youth on a scooter in front of him on the road appeared to threaten to throw the scooter at the windscreen rather than getting out of the road to allow the bus to pass. This threat and action could not have been anticipated by the driver and the action he took was clearly reasonable and necessary.

Unfortunately, the emergency stop caused a passenger on the upper deck to strike his head causing severe injury. It is understandable that he looked for a possible cause and compensation for that injury. However, the court agreed with what most bus businesses would no doubt believe: that the fault did not lie with the driver.

There can be a suspicion around whether courts will take a common-sense view when passengers and members of the public are injured and be tough enough to defend the bus operator when it has behaved properly. There can be whispers of a ‘public interest’ in compensating individuals at the expense of a business with deeper pockets. However, in this instance the court did accept that the driver had acted appropriately and may give operators some reassurance.

Brian Wong is a senior associate in our leading transport and rail litigation practice, with experience of advising bus operators on operational, regulatory and fare issues.

Key contact

Brian Wong

Brian Wong Director

  • Rail
  • Highways and Road Transport
  • Judicial Review and Public Law

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