Death by Careless Driving Compensation

Death by Careless Driving Compensation Guide 2022

Many of the deaths on UK roads are caused by fatal road accidents due to death by careless driving. If someone is arrested by the police and found guilty of causing death by careless driving, they may face time in prison. As well as imprisonment, the culprit may also be liable for a civil compensation claim where damages will be paid to the victim’s family.

This page is a dedicated guide to fatal accident compensation claims where the death was caused by careless driving. We have updated this guide for 2022 and will do our best to explain how you can claim, the process of an investigation, the potential offences and penalties, and much more. We know that this can be a complex topic, so please feel free to call us or get in touch via our live chat widget if you would like further assistance from our death by careless driving solicitors.

If you are looking for details on claiming compensation for death by dangerous driving, please click the link for dedicated information and advice.

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How to Claim Careless Driving Damages

Losing a close family member due to someone else’s careless driving can be tough to take. A death such as this can elicit various emotions, including anger, sadness and frustration. It is also not just about strong feelings. The deceased’s loved ones may endure mental health problems, including the physical effects of depression and financial struggles. That’s why we are here to offer free support and legal advice. As specialist fatal claims solicitors, we will do everything to help you claim back compensation for a careless driving accident.

We believe in offering a friendly and personal service, so welcome families to get in touch with us. The moment you reach out is entirely no obligation, and you won’t be charged a penny. If you are happy to appoint us, we will work on your side to form a solid and winning case in your favour. With our No Win, No Fee death by careless driving solicitors, you won’t pay our fees unless your case wins.

Please click the button below to get started with your death by careless driving claim.

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Definition of Causing Death by Careless Driving

Before we go into too much detail, it’s helpful to know the definition of causing death by careless driving. This is a complex area of law with plenty of debate, so it’s essential that, as solicitors, we work to the letter of the law. There are several questions to explore to determine if someone has caused an accident by careless driving or if they are not liable. Likewise, there is a substantial difference between careless and dangerous driving, the latter of which is the more serious offence.

Careless driving is covered under two sections of the Road Traffic Act.

Section 2B of the Road Traffic Act 1988:

“A person who causes the death of another person by driving a mechanically propelled vehicle on a road or other public place without due care and attention, or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the road or place, is guilty of an offence.”

The key takeaway of this definition is that careless driving happens as a result of due care and attention, or without reasonable consideration for other people. An example would be driving too close behind another vehicle. While careless driving may seem like a harmless mistake, it is not, especially if it causes death. Motorists are responsible for operating their vehicles safely and legally, ensuring they always drive in a competent manner.

Section 3A of the Road Traffic Act 1988:

This section covers motorists who have caused death by careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs. The sub-sections of this definition include being unfit to drive due to drink or drugs, consuming so much alcohol that it exceeds the prescribed limit, consuming a specified controlled drug that exceeds the specified limit for that drug, failing to provide a specimen, or failing to given permission or a laboratory test of a specimen.

See the Crown Prosecution Service website for more details.

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Criminal Offences

  • Causing Death by Careless or Inconsiderate Driving: (Section 2B of the Road Traffic Act 1988, amended by the Road Safety Act 2006, s. 20).
  • Causing death by careless driving under the influence of drink or drugs: (Section 3A Road Traffic Act (RTA) 1988).

Examples of Careless Driving:

  • Driving too close to another vehicle
  • Accidentally running through a red light
  • Overtaking on the inside
  • Turning into the path of another vehicle
  • Being distracted by the radio, mobile phone, eating or smoking

Process of Investigation/Claim

Firstly, in all road traffic accidents where there has been a fatality, the police conduct an initial investigation assessing the road surface, weather conditions, and the state of any vehicles involved.

Crown Prosecution Service will then assess whether any individual involved will face prosecution. Compensation claims can then be made against the party at fault from a claimant who was a dependent family member of the deceased.

Penalties Inflicted on the Defendant

Causing death by careless driving:

  • Maximum of 5 years in prison, disqualified from driving for a minimum of 1 year

Causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs:

  • Maximum 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both, & disqualified for a minimum of 2 years

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Careless Driving Statistics

There can be no true repayment when life is tragically lost in a road traffic accident, yet the law must make every attempt to reimburse those closest to the deceased. When assessing whether this occurs, several statistics have to be considered.

  • Between September 2012 & September 2013, there was a 38% increase in official deaths caused by dangerous driving.
  • In the same time period, there has been a 14% decrease in deaths caused by careless driving.
  • Only 60% of drivers who have been involved in a traffic accident involving a fatality are prosecuted.
  • The average prison sentence for causing death by dangerous driving is four years.
  • In 2006 there were 381 convictions in England and Wales for serious driving charges for causing death, but only 58 resulted in a prison sentence of more than five years.
  • The number of deaths involving drink/drug drive accidents soared by 26% in 2012.

Analysis of the Statistics

Regarding the sentencing of causing death by dangerous driving, it could be said that the average of 4 years imprisonment is not nearly enough considering an individual has paid the ultimate price as a result of a defendant’s actions. It could also be argued that despite no prison sentence sufficient to compensate for the loss of someone’s whole life, implementing a maximum prison sentence of 14 years is insufficient, considering there is no maximum prison sentence for murder or manslaughter.

Additionally, when assessing the average prison sentence of 4 years, it could be said that this is far too low considering that someone had died due to their dangerous driving. It would be reasonable to expect the average prison sentence to be around half of the maximum sentence, yet the actual average is three years short.

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Fatal Accident Compensation Advice

Who can claim on behalf of the deceased following a death due to careless driving?

  • Widow/Widower
  • Deceased’s children/parents

A fatal accident claim on behalf of the deceased can also be made if the deceased would have been able to claim compensation themselves at the time of death.

  • Depending on the circumstances, a claim can be made for:
    • The injuries of the loved one who died, if they were conscious of pain before death
    • Funeral expenses
    • Statutory bereavement damages
    • Loss of financial dependency – which means a loss of the financial contribution of the deceased to the household
    • Loss of non-financial dependency. This can include DIY and other help around the house support the deceased provided to their family.
  • Bereavement award:
    • The standard bereavement award is £12,980
    • This is awarded when someone dies as a result of an accident due to the fault of another.
    • The bereavement award in Scotland is not a set figure; it can vary from case to case, depending on the circumstances. This can result in much higher awards being granted to represent the value of life lost more suitably than merely a standard figure of £12980.

What About Dependents?

If you were the dependent of someone who has tragically lost their life due to careless driving, then you may be eligible for fatal accident compensation. A dependent is typically someone who relies on the financial support and care of another person.

Dependency claims are made on the basis that a sudden and avoidable death led to loss of money and/or services. You will often be able to claim for loss of income, loss of services or the bereavement award. Compensation is provided to make up for the loss of financial support that a dependent received prior to the deceased’s death. Dependency claims can also consider non-financial support, like caring for an ill partner or providing child-minding.

Dependents can include, but are not limited, to the following:

  • Wife, husband or civil partner
  • A person living with the deceased for at least two years
  • Parents or other ascendants
  • Children or other descendants
  • Siblings, uncles or aunts

Please contact us today to talk to our death by careless driving solicitors and learn more about the full list of what relationships and associations count as being dependent on the deceased.

Common Causes of Careless Driving

Careless driving is when a motorist drives their vehicle in a manner that is judged to be slightly below that of a competent driver. If you drive carelessly, you do so without due care and attention or reasonable consideration for others. While not as serious as dangerous driving, it is still a serious offence that can sadly lead to death.

There are several examples of behaviours that fall under the category of careless driving. Below are some of the most common causes.


One of the biggest examples of driving carelessly is when you allow yourself to be distracted. Motorists have a responsibility to maintain focus at all times while operating their vehicles. Taking your eye off the road for a split second can cause severe consequences and prevent you from reacting to hazards. Distractions can come in many forms, including using a mobile phone, operating a navigation system, eating or drinking, or talking to passengers


Intoxication can include alcohol consumption or taking illegal drugs. It can also include the effects of taking prescribed medication or being ill. A lot of incidents involving intoxication happen when drivers misjudge or underestimate their limits and tolerance levels. Taking too much of these substances can impair a person’s ability to drive, affecting their awareness, judgement and reactions. Accidents can also happen if a person does not properly research the effects of taking medication. Liability may lie elsewhere if an accident occurs, such as if a doctor or pharmacist fails to warn someone not to drive while on certain medication.

Avoiding Signals

Another cause of careless driving is failing to follow road traffic signals. The clearest example of this is running a red light. It is a legal requirement to stop as soon as a traffic light turns red. Failing to do so can cause a serious accident when vehicles in other directions begin to move. Similarly, motorists must observe road signs such as speed zones, stop and give way instructions, one-way systems, and roadwork hazards.


Drivers have a responsibility to ensure they have adequate energy and concentration levels when on the roads. Feeling tired is a careless action as it affects your competence in driving in a responsible and safe manner. Drivers should recognise how tiredness affects their ability and avoid getting behind the wheel if they are not in a fit state. If you are on a long drive, you should take regular breaks and if possible, rotate with another legal driver.

Case Study Examples of Death by Careless Driving

Unfortunately, death by careless driving happens on our roads more often than we would like to imagine. To help you understand the severe consequences and compensation results of careless driving, the following section will detail a selection of fatal accidents that have occurred in real life.

Close Friend Killed by Drink Driver

As reported by the Chronicle Live, a passenger sadly died when a high-powered Subaru Impreza crashed into a wall in Ryton, Gateshead. The deceased, Callum Gray, was a childhood friend of the driver, Christopher Brown. Mr Brown plead guilty to causing death by careless driving while over the drink drive limit. He is reported to have been drinking a mixture of lager and coke and ignored advice to leave his car at the pub. While driving at high speeds, the car spun out of control during a turn. Mr Gray died of neck and chest injuries 11 days after the accident. While sentencing Mr Brown, Judge Robert Adams remarked that he appeared to be showing off his high-powered vehicle. He was banned from driving for three years and sentenced to 40 months in prison.

The Role of an Inquest Hearing

When someone has died, authorities will determine whether the death was caused by natural causes or suspicious circumstances. If a death is suspicious or unexplainable, then a coroner will perform a thorough investigation to determine the cause.

Coroners are judges who are tasked with identifying unknown bodies and investigating how a death came to be. A corner will hold an inquest hearing to investigate the manner of a suspicious or unexplainable death. They have the power to collect important evidence and request witnesses to attend the Coroner’s Court.

In the interest of careless driving, a coroner will make the decision as to whether or not a death occurred due to natural causes, unlawful killing or accident. Inquest hearings are the first significant step in pursuing careless driving compensation. However, it’s important to note that the coroner’s role is to find facts, not prosecute individuals. Criminal proceedings and/or compensation claims will follow the coroner’s verdict and focus more on apportioning blame.

Can Careless Driving Lead To a Life Sentence?

While taking the life of another person is the ultimate crime, this does not mean that the culprit will receive a life sentence. Careless driving is considered to be an accident rather than an intentional act, as is the more serious charge of dangerous driving. Simply put, being charged with careless driving doesn’t mean that you will be charged with murder.

The most serious offence involving death by careless driving is driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This offence comes with a maximum sentence of 14 years imprisonment. Other serious offences range from 2-5 years in prison as a maximum sentence. Sentences for minor offences can include being disqualified, servicing a community sentence, or paying a fine.

While only very serious offences currently carry a life sentence in the UK, there are suggestions that death by driving may soon be included. New legislation proposed by the government will increase the maximum sentence for causing death by driving from 14 years to a life sentence.

Claim With Death by Careless Driving Solicitors

At R James Hutcheon Solicitors, we can guarantee that we will do our utmost to reassure and fully support any client who has suffered the bereavement of a loved one, following the death caused by careless driving of someone they were dependant on.

We will ensure that the unfair nature of this area of law, in particular, does not result in our clients feeling abandoned. Our work will help mitigate the effects of such an unjust concept to help reimburse the clients of their loss in the hope they can begin to attempt to recommence their life.

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