Death by Dangerous Driving Compensation Guide
Causing death by dangerous driving is one thing bereaved families have to consider when they are faced with an untimely and sudden loss of a loved one following a tragic road accident. As specialist fatal accident claims solicitors, we will help bereaved families claim back compensation against the driver’s insurance company (if there is one), if not through the Motor Insurer’s Bureau or an order by a Judge in Court.
A driver or cyclist charged with the offence will be liable for a civil claim for compensation and criminal charges by the police that can lead to imprisonment.
This guide updated for 2020 will include information on the legal definition of causing death by dangerous driving, some examples of the offence and which family members can claim compensation following the death of a loved one. It can be quite complex so if you are in need of any assistance please feel free to call us or why not engaged our live chat facility if we are online.
When death is due to a deliberate or reckless disregard for life, it is hard to take. Specialist fatal accident solicitors here to help bereaved families and offer FREE SUPPORT and legal advice. We will obtain for the family maximum compensation for road deaths in the UK.
If the other driver has been charged with another offence by the police and you wish to claim compensation for causing death by careless driving please click on that link for further information.
Definition of Causing Death by Dangerous Driving
To understand the law you need to know the definition which the lawyers and the courts will use to see if the driver or cyclist in question can be convicted for the criminal offence.
Section 1 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (as substituted by the Road Traffic Act 1991) provides:
A person who causes the death of another person by driving a mechanically propelled vehicle dangerously on a road or other public place is guilty of an offence.
On the Crown Prosecution Service website it provides some useful information of what can constitute a claim for compensation for causing death by dangerous driving under section 1 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (RTA 1988).
‘When the suspect’s driving is a cause or factor in the death of another person and the driving was dangerous.’
By “dangerous” we mean within the meaning of section 2A of the RTA 1988, i.e.
‘the standard of driving falls far below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver and it would be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving in that way would be dangerous.’
The criminal sanction is 14 years’ imprisonment, by virtue of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, and/or an unlimited fine.
Examples that will be considered by a Judge at court when a driver is faced with a criminal charge:
- The criminal driver must have played a part not simply in creating the occasion for the fatal accident, i.e. causation in the “but for” sense, but in bringing it about;
- The degree of contribution to the criminal activity is beyond a negligible;
- If the criminal driving is too remote from the later event to have caused the death, the Judge may dismiss the claim.
See the Crown Prosecution Service website for more details.
Three Common Offences of Causing Death while Driving
As fatal accident solicitors we are often asked what is the difference between the driver being charged with death by careless driving and death by dangerous driving.
The main difference it that ‘careless driving’ of a driving standard below that of a ‘prudent motorist’ with no obligation for the CPS to establish any actual or risk of injury giving rise to death.
But for a charge, the standard has be be ‘far below’ and that there is an obvious risk that by the driver’s actions, there is a risk that personal injury or death may result by his or her actions.
- Causing Death by Careless driving or Inconsiderate Driving:(Section 2B of the Road Traffic Act 1988, amended by the Road Safety Act 2006, s. 20).
Examples of Careless Driving:
• Driving too close to another vehicle.
• Driving through a red light by mistake.
• Overtaking on the inside.
• Turning in to path of another vehicle.
• Being avoidably distracted by the radio, cigarette etc.
Source: Crown Prosecution Service Fact Sheet
2. Causing Death by Dangerous Driving: (Section 1 of the Road Traffic Act 1988).
Examples of Dangerous Driving:
• Racing / Going too fast / driving too aggressively.
• Ignoring traffic lights.
• Overtaking dangerously.
• Driving when knowing there is a serious fault with the vehicle.
• Being dangerously distracted by a map / phone / radio etc.
Source: Crown Prosecution Service Fact Sheet:
3. Causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs: (Section 3A Road Traffic Act (RTA) 1988).
Examples of death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs:
- Excessive alcohol consumption,
- Excessive prescription drug consumption,
- Illegal drug consumption,
- Mixture of drugs and alcohol consumption,
Road Accident Deaths and Mobile Phones
Possible actions that you can be charged for by using a mobile phone behind the wheel where you can be convicted for a serious criminal offence. With the advent of using mobile phones behind the wheel there are increasing number of charges brought against drivers for serious offences for dangerous driving and careless driving. In fact, for many driving offences, the one of the first things the police will check a driver’s mobile phone.
Examples of possible offences can be found on our web-page mobile phone related deaths UK
- quick look at who text
- making a call
- receiving a call
- checking emails
- sending emails
- playing music
- the list is now endless with smart phones
What about Compensation?
For the purposes of this website, there is no need to go into detail about what constitutes “dangerous driving” as it is very much dependent upon individual facts and moreover a common sense. Some guidance can be obtained from the Crown Protection Service, see more below on this page.
If a driver is charged and or convicted with causing death by dangerous driving it also has a further consequence and where a claim for compensation for a fatal car accident claim can be made by the bereaved family who have lost a loved one by the accident. The compensation claim is called a ‘Civil Claim‘ (this does not involved the police or the Crown Prosecution Service.)
In a Civil Claim for compensation, specialist fatal accident claims solicitors like us will represent the bereaved family (usually the next of kin) to make a compensation claim against the driver or specifically his or her vehicle insurance company.
For compensation claims the legal system will commence in the following courts (most cases will be heard in the County Court). If a party wishes to appeal any decision of a judge in the county court the appellant may appeal to the higher courts set out below.
- County Courts
- High Court (Civil Division)
- Court of Appeal (Civil Division)
- Supreme Court (Highest Appeal Court in England & Wales).
The fatal accident solicitors representing the bereaved family will claim compensation under the following Statute Laws in England and Wales, namely:
The general distinction between the two Statute Laws are that the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 are used by the dependents of the deceased, that is, in laypersons’ terms, the ‘next of kin’ usually the widow or widower, the survivor in a civil partnership or other ‘dependents of the deceased which can include children and a wider network of family members.
But a dependent of the deceased may also be an unmarried partner who was living with deceased for at least two years prior to death or a child of the deceased. The list of dependents can be wide see further below on who can be a dependent.
Who Can be a Dependent of the Deceased?
The Fatal Accidents Act 1976 provides a list of dependents who can claim compensation for a fatal accident:
(a) the wife or husband or former wife or husband of the deceased;
(aa)the civil partner or former civil partner of the deceased;]
(b)any person who—
(i) was living with the deceased in the same household immediately before the date of the death; and
(ii) had been living with the deceased in the same household for at least two years before that date; and
(iii) was living during the whole of that period as the husband or wife or civil partner of the deceased;
(c) any parent or other ascendant of the deceased;
(d) any person who was treated by the deceased as his parent;
(e) any child or other descendant of the deceased;
(f) any person (not being a child of the deceased) who, in the case of any marriage to which the deceased was at any time a party, was treated by the deceased as a child of the family in relation to that marriage;
(fa) any person (not being a child of the deceased) who, in the case of any civil partnership in which the deceased was at any time a civil partner, was treated by the deceased as a child of the family in relation to that civil partnership;]
(g) any person who is, or is the issue of, a brother, sister, uncle or aunt of the deceased.
(4) The reference to the former wife or husband of the deceased in subsection (3)(a) above includes a reference to a person whose marriage to the deceased has been annulled or declared void as well as a person whose marriage to the deceased has been dissolved.
Right of action for wrongful act causing death, Section 1 Fatal Accidents Act 1976
The dependency claim under the 1976 Act will be for a:
- Bereavement award
- Loss of income
- Loss of services.
The bereavement award is what the law values the life of the deceased if killed instantly in a road traffic fatality, the current amount is a pitiful £12,980. But this award is limited to only a particular class of close family members. For more information on please see here claiming a bereavement award.
A dependent will usually claim compensation for financial support that was provided pre-death by the deceased. It may also include non-financial support such as caring for a surviving partner who was ill or for child-minding. The compensation for a dependent can be significant especially if the deceased was working and the bereaved family were very much dependent upon the deceased’s income prior to death.
What if the Driver Has No Motor Insurance?
This often happens especially where the driver is young and drives the vehicle without the owner’s consent or permission. Another example is where the driver steals the vehicle.
The law relation to motor insurance can be very complex (even for lawyers) but the following information is simplified to understand the point.
Where a vehicle has insurance but the driver does not have permission or it was stolen to drive the vehicle, the insurance company that insured the vehicle will, under the rules of the Motor Insurance Bureau, (MIB) be the responsible insurer and pay out to the bereaved family dependents any compensation that is due to the family under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 in particular.
If the vehicle and/or driver could not be traced then a claim can be made, again via the MIB for compensation for causing death by dangerous driving under the uninsured loss agreement.
What is the Coroner’s Court?
Families will hear of a specialist court called ‘The Coroner’s Court’ is inquisitorial to investigate the possible causes of death that may be suspicions or death following a crime or criminal activity such as the deceased being killed due to dangerous driving.
The judge who is called a ‘Coroner’ will hold an ‘Inquest’ into the cause of death. The Coroner has wide-raging powers can can order various witnesses and the Police to attend court to give evidence.
A Coroner’s inquest is fact finding only, it’s function is not to see who was to blame, although the facts will often lead to the same conclusion. For more information see further What Happens at an Inquest Hearing? and What Happens at an Inquest Hearing?
Most Serious Offence Compensation
This will involve driving that is deliberate, the CPS use the words “a flagrant disregard” for the rules of the road, examples include:
- A prolonged, persistent and deliberate course of very bad driving
- Consuming substantial amounts of alcohol or drugs leading to gross impairment.
Substantial risk of danger to life.
This is the second serious charge which the following will be taken into account by the Police:
- Excessive speed, racing or competitive driving against another driver,
- Avoidable distraction such as using your phone, reading, composing a text message over a period of time.
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, failing to take prescribed medication or as a result of a known medical condition.
Significant risk of danger to life.
The third charge and less serious compared to the other two charges but nevertheless, the end result is still the same.
- Driving above the speed limit/at a speed that is inappropriate for the prevailing conditions.
- Driving when knowingly deprived of adequate sleep or rest or knowing that the vehicle has a dangerous defect or is poorly maintained or is dangerously leaded.
- A brief but obvious danger arising from a seriously dangerous manoeuvre.
- Driving whilst avoidably distracted.
- Failing to have proper regard to vulnerable road users.
Are You Affected by the Death of a Loved One Due to Dangerous Driving?
You are not alone. We are here to help you every step of the way. Our philosophy is the same (see our quote below). We help you get to the truth, support you through the Courts and Inquest hearing and claim any compensation for the family left behind.
Crown Prosecution Service
Whist we are civil claim solicitors, claiming compensation for death by dangerous driving offences, nevertheless it must be remembered that the offence comes under Criminal Law which means there are serious consequences as a conviction can result in imprisonment. The criminal law is enforced by the Police who gather the evidence sufficient for the driver to be charged with the offence. Once the Police have the necessary evidence, the file is then passed to the Crown Prosecution Service who will then present the case to the Judge and Jury.
The CPS on their website, provides information on what they do summarised as follows:
- decides which cases should be prosecuted;
- determines the appropriate charges in more serious or complex cases, and advises the police during the early stages of investigations;
- prepares cases and presents them at court; and
- provides information, assistance and support to victims and prosecution witnesses.
There is advice if you are a victim of a criminal offence or a witness, in both circumstances it can be a very emotional and stressful time; support for victims and witnesses.
The CPS will often prosecute criminals in the following courts in order of hierarchy
- Magistrates’ Court
- Crown Court
- High Court (Criminal Division)
- Court of Appeal (Criminal Division)
- Supreme Court (Highest Appeal Court in England & Wales).
However only minor criminal offences are taken to the Magistrates Court, and therefore causing death by dangerous driving offence will be tried in the Crown Court before a Judge and a Jury.
A Magistrates’ court deals with minor offences, e.g.:
- most motoring offences (unpaid parking fees)
- minor criminal damage
- being drunk and disorderly
- drugs offences (minor offences)
The Magistrates Court has jurisdiction to deal with charges, but they have limited authority to pass a maximum term of imprisonment of only 6 months. The Magistrates can, if they consider this sentence too short for the crime, refer the case up to the Crown Court for sentencing.
A Crown Court can give a range of sentences which are serious including:
Why Not a Life Sentence for Killing Someone?
The punishment should fit the crime. But you cannot get more serious than causing the death of another person(s). However by being charged with the offence of dangerous driving is due to an accident or mistake rather than an intention to kill.
An intention to kill someone is with what lawyers call ‘malice aforethought‘ a premeditated or intentional act to murder a person. So the easiest example is a criminal who plans weeks or months ahead to kill someone. The guilty mind is present and the execution is the act of killing i.e. stabbing or shooting etc. That is murder and thus a life sentence is appropriate.
But causing death by dangerous driving in the UK is an ‘accident’. The driver did not intentionally go out that morning, day or night to kill someone. What the driver did was to drive his or her vehicle dangerously, the terms used could be recklessly by driving too fast for instance. The standard test used by the Court under the Road Traffic Act 1988 is put simply as:
‘obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving the vehicle in its current state would be dangerous.’*
The current phenomena of using mobile phones behind the wheel is a prime example of a driver being charged with death by dangerous driving.
The CPS can construe the use of a mobile phone as a serious criminal offence, and if the sue of a phone causes the death of another road user or pedestrian you could be imprisoned for up to 14 years.
Motorcyclists Are 62 Times More Likely to Suffer a Fatal Accident
Did you know that motorcyclists are 62 times more likely to suffer a fatal accident than car drivers? This is according to 2018 motorbike accident statistics. This shocking figure shows just how dangerous the road can be for certain road users. Anyone who uses the road will always have the risk of sustaining serious injuries from an accident. The level of risk is greater when dangerous and reckless driving is involved. However, motorcyclists are more at risk than anyone else. With a shocking fatality rate that is 62 times greater than motorists, it’s clear that motorcyclists are more likely to succumb to injuries they receive. Motorbikes are able to reach high speeds similar to cars and trucks, but are more difficult to see and their riders have less protection, resulting in a greater chance of a serious injury.