It appears that compared to twenty or thirty years ago, the police prosecute fewer motorists who have caused injury to clients. In the 1980’s, the police were involved in dealing with a much higher percentage of road traffic accidents and we often had to wait until prosecutions had concluded in the Courts for copies of their Accident Reports. These contained witness statements and other important evidence that helped us to advise our clients about their prospects of succeeding with their claims.
Nowadays, it seems that motorists are only prosecuted if the injuries are extremely serious or if there is some other “criminal” element of the offence such as; the driver having no insurance, being intoxicated with drink or drugs, not stopping at the scene of the accident or driving a stolen vehicle. With none of these features being present, it is common for the police not to start prosecutions.
Here are 5 reasons this may happen:
Police Forces have limited resources and budgets.
Prosecution of drivers for driving without due care and attention may not be as high on their lists of priorities, particularly when the injuries sustained are not serious and the offending motorist has insurers who will both compensate the injured party and pay for any repairs required to their vehicle.
Overburden of the Magistrates’ Courts
The Magistrates’ Courts would be overburdened with work if every driver who drove into the back of the car in front, or caused an accident due to a moment’s loss of concentration had to appear and answer charges.
Difficulty in gathering proof in order to prosecute
It is harder to succeed with a prosecution than a civil claim as the burden of proof is higher. For magistrates to convict a motorist, they have to find that the offence has been proved beyond all reasonable doubt. If there are no independent witnesses to an accident, which is common, then it will not be financially viable to proceed with a case that is likely to fail, costing the public (which funds the Crown Prosecution Service) many thousands of pounds in wasted legal fees.
In a civil claim, an injured claimant has only to prove that the opponent was responsible for the accident on a balance of probabilities, namely that is more likely than not that they were negligent, to win compensation. In percentage terms, the prosecution in the criminal case has to show that it was around 95% likely that the offender is guilty, whereas in a civil claim, the Claimant has to prove that it was 51% likely that the Defendant caused the accident to happen.
It’s not in the public interest
It is often considered not in the public interest to prosecute drivers who cause accidents if they are seriously injured themselves or if the injuries they have caused are relatively minor, they have insurance and have admitted liability for the accident.
Dependency on the Crown Prosecution Service
We should remember that the police usually rely on the Crown Prosecution Service to make the decision if there should be a criminal case and the CPS will take account of policy reasons when deciding whether or not to proceed.
These are all understandable and valid reasons why criminal charges are not brought against motorists, which often appears quite unjust to injured clients, particularly when their injuries are serious.
In fatal accident cases, policy usually dictates that there are criminal proceedings, with the Crown Prosecution having to make a very difficult decision whether to charge the driver with causing death by dangerous driving or with the lesser offence of driving without due care and attention.
The good news for injured claimants is that whether or not there is a police prosecution is often irrelevant to their claim.
Defendant’s insurers assess liability based on what they are told by the driver and any witnesses they speak to whether or not there are criminal charges. If the insurers want to see the Police Collision Report before they decide whether or not to admit liability, it is available much quicker if there are no charges.
Claimants do not receive more compensation if there is a successful prosecution of the offender. Many do not want to appear in Court and give evidence. Sometimes criminal proceedings delay injury claims by many months. Jonathan is currently acting for a very seriously injured client, whose opponent’s insurers have decided to delay their liability decision until after the prosecution of their insured driver. This will occur 16 months after the accident. Had there been no prosecution, the decision would have been made many months ago and the client would have recovered far more by way of interim payments.
In summary, there may be fewer prosecutions of bad drivers than before, but that is usually for acceptable reasons, and it doesn’t materially affect the progress or success of personal injury claims.
Should you, your friends or family require any advice or assistance in relation to a claim, please do not hesitate to contact us on 0114 218 4000 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.