Accident on a traffic circle in England – one of the last German judgments on English law (Brexit)

Accident at traffic circle in England, AG Schweinfurt, judgment of 07.06.2021

Multi-lane traffic circles in England will remain a mystery to many German drivers. There are no concrete traffic regulations as in German law; rather, there are general duties of care arising from the Road Traffic Act 1988 and the Highway Code, which are, however, not mandatory.

In addition, since Brexit has now been implemented and the transitional periods have expired, there is no longer any German jurisdiction for accidents in the United Kingdom – subject to a new agreement to be drawn up.

In this case, a truck was driving in the outer lane and wanted to leave the traffic circle at the next but one exit. So he intended to pass an exit in the outermost lane and remain in the traffic circle.

On the lane further inside the traffic circle, a van approached from behind, but was already leaving the traffic circle at the next exit. The exit was two lanes at this point.

When the van tried to turn into the second exit lane via the outside lane, it collided with the truck.

The question of liability and individual questions regarding the amount of damage were in dispute.

The standard of conduct of road users is governed by duties of care, namely the Road Traffic Act 1988 and the Highway Code. The violation of such a rule has indicative effect for the establishment or denial of civil liability of the responsible person. A final assessment in a specific case is to be made by the judge. In particular, the rule provided in the Highway Code for the specific traffic situation must be taken into account, which, however, is not mandatory.

The driver of the van violated Rule 133 (“lane change”) and 187 of the Highway Code. He did not make sure that when he exited the traffic circle and changed from the right lane to the left lane, the left side had been clear before he changed to that side. At that time, the plaintiff’s truck was in that lane. In addition, he did not pay attention to the wrong-way traffic and did not keep enough distance. Although the plaintiff’s truck was driving in the wrong lane, on the left and not in the right lane, the driver of the van should have arranged his change maneuver from the right to the left lane in such a way that a collision would not have occurred. He should have considered that the plaintiff truck was traveling in the wrong lane. He should have gotten into the left lane behind the plaintiff truck. He did not keep sufficient distance from the plaintiff’s truck.

However, in the present case, contributory negligence on the part of the driver of the plaintiff truck must be taken into account, since he drove in the wrong lane in the traffic circle and in this respect violated Rule 186 of the Highway Code (following the reasoning of the Court of Appeal in Grace v. Tanner).

After the driver of the plaintiff’s truck wanted to exit at the next but one exit, he should have gotten into the middle lane on the approach, which led to the right lane of the traffic circle. Only after passing the last exit before the destination exit should the driver have turned left and moved into the left lane to exit the traffic circle in the left lane. The left lane is reserved for road users who want to leave the traffic circle at the next exit. The driver of the plaintiff truck should have paid special attention to the traffic that was around him. He may have failed to look in the rearview mirror because witness S had indicated that he had not seen the pickup truck. In this respect, he should have anticipated that another road user would cross the lane he was using to exit the traffic circle.

The Highway Code violation is indicative of contributory negligence. In this respect, the claim for damages of the injured party shall be reduced to an appropriate extent. Contributory negligence is assessed according to the same standards as the fault of the tortfeasor. The court has broad discretion in this regard. The court assessed the contributory negligence at 50%.

The expert’s fees are only to be reimbursed on a pro rata basis in the event of a liability quota. The cost regulation is found in Part 44 of the CPR. Thereafter, the court has broad discretion as to whether a party is to pay costs to the other party, the amount of costs to be paid, and the date on which they are to be paid. The general rule of the law on costs is that the unsuccessful party shall pay the costs of the successful party, unless the court decides otherwise. Gem. Part 33 (6) (d) CPR includes costs of pre-litigation legal advice and the costs of an expert’s report on damages.

Repair and holding costs are also reimbursable; however, a general expense allowance is not.

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