Death by Dangerous Driving Compensation Guide 2023
Causing death by dangerous driving is one thing bereaved families must consider when facing an untimely and sudden loss of a loved one following a tragic road accident. A driver or cyclist charged with the offence will be liable for a civil claim for compensation and criminal charges by the police, potentially leading to imprisonment.
This death by dangerous driving compensation guide has been updated for 2023. It will include information on the legal definition of causing death by dangerous driving, some examples of the offence and the family members that can claim compensation following the death of a loved one. It can be quite complex, so please feel free to call us or engage via our live chat facility during operating hours if you require any assistance.
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.
It can be hard to take when death is due to a deliberate or reckless disregard for life. That’s why we are specialist fatal accident claims solicitors and why we are dedicated to helping bereaved families with free support and legal advice. We will claim back fatal car accident compensation against the driver’s insurance company. If the driver doesn’t have an insurance company, we will either claim through the Motor Insurer’s Bureau or an order by a judge in court. We have a history of obtaining the maximum compensation for road deaths in the UK.
Our process is simple. As soon as you get in touch with us, we will listen to your individual circumstances and explain your options. At this point, you are not obliged to appoint us, but we will be more than happy to advise. Should you choose us, we will get started right away on piecing together a winning compensation claim. We work on a No Win, No Fee basis, so you don’t have to worry about paying our fees unless your case wins.
Please click the button below to get started with your death by dangerous driving claim.
To understand the law, you need to know the definition that the lawyers and the courts will use to see if the driver or cyclist 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.
The Crown Prosecution Service website provides useful information on what constitutes 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 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.
As fatal accident solicitors, we are often asked about the difference between being charged with death by dangerous driving and careless driving.
The main difference is that ‘careless driving’ is 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 to 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 from their actions.
Causing Death by Dangerous Driving: (Section 1 of the Road Traffic Act 1988).
Examples of Dangerous Driving:
- Racing, going too fast or driving aggressively
- Driving when knowing there is a serious fault with the vehicle
- Ignoring traffic lights and road signs
- Driving when unfit (e.g. eyesight health problems)
- Overtaking dangerously
- Driving while under the influence
- Being dangerously distracted by a map/phone/radio etc.
- Driving on the hard shoulder.
With the advent of using mobile phones behind the wheel, an increasing number of charges are brought against drivers for serious offences of dangerous driving. In fact, for many driving offences, one of the first things that police will check is a driver’s mobile phone.
Examples of possible offences can be found on our web page: mobile phone related deaths in the UK.
- a quick look at who texted
- making a call
- receiving a call
- checking emails
- sending emails
- playing music
- the list is now endless with smartphones
What about Compensation for Death in Car Accident?
For this website, there is no need to detail what constitutes “dangerous driving” as it is very much dependent upon individual facts and 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 of causing death by dangerous driving, it also has a further consequence. A claim for compensation for death in a car accident can be made by the bereaved family who has lost a loved one following the accident. The compensation claim is called a ‘Civil Claim‘ (this does not involve 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 their vehicle insurance company.
The legal system commences in the following courts (most cases will be heard in the County Court). If a party wishes to appeal a judge’s decision 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 is 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 living with the deceased for at least two years before the death. The list of dependents can be wide; see further below on who can be a dependent.
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 deceased’s life 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 providing child-minding. The compensation for a dependent can be significant, especially if the deceased was working and the bereaved family depended upon the deceased’s income before death.
This often happens, especially when the driver is young and drives the vehicle without consent or permission. Another example is where the driver steals the vehicle.
The law concerning 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 payout to the bereaved family dependents.
If the vehicle and/or driver could not be traced, a claim can be made again via the MIB for compensation for causing death by dangerous driving under the uninsured loss agreement.
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 called a ‘Coroner’ would hold an ‘Inquest’ into the cause of death. The Coroner has wide-ranging powers and can order witnesses and the police to attend court to give evidence.
A Coroner’s inquest is fact-finding only. Its function is not to see who was to blame, although the facts will often lead to the same conclusion. For more information, see What Happens at an Inquest Hearing?
This will involve deliberate driving. The CPS use the words “a flagrant disregard” for the rules of the road. Examples include:
- A prolonged, persistent and deliberate course of 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 distractions 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 is less serious than the other two charges, but the 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, is poorly maintained, or is dangerously led.
- A brief but obvious danger arising from a dangerous manoeuvre.
- Driving whilst avoidably distracted.
- Failing to have proper regard for 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 hearings and claim compensation for death in a car accident for the family left behind.
Sadly, death by dangerous driving is not a rare circumstance. Thousands of people die from road accidents in the United Kingdom every year. To provide you with a further understanding of the types of accidents that can happen and payouts that have been awarded, this section will describe some of the notable real-life incidents that have taken place on our road.
Norfolk Man Jailed for Four Years
One of the most recent examples of death by dangerous driving involves a case in Norfolk that concluded in March 2021 following a sentencing decision. Bradley Raper, aged 24, sadly died following a collision in his Ford ST. Mr Raper travelled down the A1066 in Brettanham, Norfolk, when he collided with an Audi Quatro. He was taken to a nearby hospital with serious injuries but sadly died the following day. The driver of the Audi, Jim Rumsby, was found to be driving at 100mph before the collision despite road markings warning of an oncoming junction. Mr Rumsby pleaded guilty to death by dangerous driving. The judge sentenced him to four years in prison and disqualified him from driving for four years.
10-Year Sentence for Leeds Man
In another example of death by dangerous driving, a man from Leeds has recently been handed a 10-year sentence following a crash which led to two deaths. In June 2019, three vehicles were involved in a collision, resulting in the death of two passengers. A driver and two other passengers also received serious injuries. Mr Cawley pleaded guilty to several vehicle offences at Leeds Crown Court, including two counts of causing death by dangerous driving, three counts of causing serious injury by dangerous driving, and possession of a Class A drug. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison. The judge also disqualified him from driving for five years, after which he will need to take an extended driving test.
While we are civil claim solicitors covering compensation for death in a car accident, remember that dangerous driving offences come under Criminal Law, which means there are severe consequences, as a conviction can result in imprisonment. The police enforce criminal law and gather sufficient evidence for the driver to be charged with the offence. Once the police have the necessary evidence, the file is passed to the Crown Prosecution Service before presenting the case to the judge and jury.
The CPS on their website provides information on what they do, including:
- 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 an investigation
- prepares cases and presents them at court
- 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. Find out more about 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. Therefore, causing death by the dangerous driving offence will be tried in the Crown Court before a judge and a Jury.
A Magistrates’ Court deals with minor offences, such as:
- 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. If they consider this sentence too short for the crime, the Magistrates can refer the case up to the Crown Court for sentencing.
A Crown Court can give a range of serious sentences, including:
The punishment should fit the crime. But you cannot get more serious than causing the death of another person(s). However, being charged with 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 to kill someone. The guilty mind is present, and the execution is 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. The driver drove their vehicle dangerously; the terms used could be recklessly 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 phenomenon 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 use 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 can 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.
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