Causing Serious Injury by Dangerous Driving

The Offence
The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 has recently introduced the offence of “Causing serious injury by dangerous driving.”  The offence is defined as follows:
“A person who causes serious injury to another person by driving a mechanically propelled vehicle dangerously on a road or other public place is guilty of an offence.”
It is an offence which is triable either way, meaning it can be dealt with by either the Crown Court or the Magistrates’ Court.  If the Magistrates’ Court deems its sentencing powers are insufficient for the alleged seriousness of the offence committed, or if the defendant elects to, then the matter will be heard in the Court.

In the Magistrates’ Court, the maximum sentence can be up to six months in prison, whilst in the Crown Court, the maximum sentence can be up to five years in prison.

The offence has been introduced to attempt to plug the gap between dangerous driving, with a maximum sentence of two years and death by dangerous driving, with a maximum sentence of fourteen years.
Judges were finding that in some cases, although they involved seriously dangerous driving and the victim suffered horrific injuries, perhaps even put into a vegetative state, the Court’s hand were tied. As there was no fatality, a maximum sentence of only two years could be handed out when arguably longer was warranted.  With the same level of driving but when a victim died, the Court was able to hand out longer sentences which arguably merited the crime.  It was for this reason that the Government felt a ‘middle ground’ offence was required.

Further New Offence – Causing Serious Injury by Careless Driving?
The obvious next step in terms of new legislation would be the creation of a similar offence for careless driving: Causing serious injury by careless driving.  The penalties for this offence would be obviously be lower but, at the moment, there have been no announcements for plans for such an offence

Implications for Civil Claims
In most cases, a civil claim for damages will follow a criminal prosecution for driving offences which involve death or serious injury.  Those trying to defend the civil claim could be severely hampered by the fact that the element of “serious injury” has already been established within the criminal courts.
Insurers may take the view that it is their interests to fund representation in the criminal case, in an attempt to reduce their exposure in the subsequent civil claim.  Obviously, if the criminal case is successfully defended then this will reduce, or even avoid, a civil claim.

For advice on transport law, contact Jared Dunbar at Dyne Solicitors on 01829 773 100.

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