Road Traffic Accident Claims Guide

Is A Car Accident A Criminal Offence?

A car accident is not necessarily a criminal offence, even if someone has been injured as a result. Our road traffic accident solicitors could help you claim compensation following an accident even if the person responsible has not been charged with a crime.

In the course of everyday driving, accidents do happen in which no one was hurt, no one is to blame, and everything is taken care of at the scene of the incident by those involved. In cases like this, no one has broken the law.

It's the circumstances leading up to an accident, as well as what happens afterwards, that determine whether an accident is a criminal offence or not, rather than the fact that there was a collision.

When Is A Car Accident A Criminal Offence?

Many road traffic accidents are caused by what is defined by law as “careless driving”, or “driving without due care and attention”. This means that the standard of driving fell below that expected of a reasonable, prudent and competent driver.

Sometimes the offence may be categorised as “dangerous driving” if the driving was far below the minimum acceptable standard expected of a competent and careful driver

A genuine accident is one where the cause is usually out of the driver's control. This could include:

  • Previously unknown faults with the vehicle
  • A blowout of a tyre
  • A medical problem
  • Sudden and unexpected sneezing fits
  • A wasp coming through the window and distracting the driver

If any reasons such as these can be proven, it's likely that the police won't charge the driver.

A driver is considered negligent where it can be proven that the incident has been caused by their poor driving. This could involve:

  • Changing lanes when it is not clear to do so
  • Pulling out when it's unsafe to do so
  • Not taking precautions in line with road and weather conditions
  • Driving through a red light
  • Entering a roundabout when it is not clear to do so
  • Driving too close to the car in front
  • Overtaking when it was not safe to do so

If the other driver fails to stop, this is classed as a “hit and run” incident – find out more about what you need to do in this situation.

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When Do You Need To Report An Accident To The Police?

Generally speaking if there has been an accident and details are not exchanged between the drivers, then it should be reported to the police.

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How Does A Criminal Case Affect Compensation Claims?

Generally speaking, a criminal case should not affect a compensation claim. For example, it may be perfectly clear that the other driver was at fault, and has accepted responsibility for the accident. However, they may still feel that they weren't guilty of the charge of careless or dangerous driving brought against them. In situations such as this, the compensation claim could be settled before the criminal case is finished as the compensation amount is not dependent on a conviction.

If the other driver doesn't accept responsibility for the accident, and is disputing any of the police charges raised against them, it's likely that the compensation claim won't be settled until after the criminal case has finished.

However, most accidents that result in a claim for compensation don't have a criminal case brought against them, as the police will generally only pursue charges in the most serious accidents.

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Contact Us Today

If you or a loved one has been involved in a car accident and are unsure about whether or not you'll be able to claim, contact us today on 0800 056 4110.

Even if your insurance company has recommended another law firm, you're free to make your own decision on who represents you, so give us a call and we'll be happy to provide you with a free initial consultation on your case.

The above information relates to the law in England and Wales.

All Scottish cases will be handled by the Scottish law firm with which we're associated, Irwin Mitchell Scotland LLP. The law relating to funding is different in Scotland and you'll receive separate advice about what that means as well as a separate funding agreement.

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