Deliberate 'accidents' - when cars are used as weapons

With around 23,000 people killed or seriously injured on the roads each year in the UK, it is often said that in the wrong hands a car can be a deadly weapon.  Whilst most casualties on the roads are the victims of accidents in which someone has had a moment of carelessness, occasionally vehicles are used deliberately to cause harm.

A recent case of an incident in Cambridge showed how a moment of the ‘red mist’ descending on a driver could have tragic consequences.  21 year old Alex Jeffery had been out with friends and was waiting for a lift home when an argument broke out with another group of people.  A car approached, and one of the group began to argue with the driver, who then drove off, suddenly swerving to the left towards the group and hitting Mr Jeffery, who was killed.

Whether they are deliberately planned attacks or moments of road rage, incidents like this do happen from time to time.  Fatalities are fortunately rare, but victims can be left with serious, sometimes life-changing injuries, leaving people unable to work or needing to pay for care and support.  Most motor insurance policies provide cover for injuries drivers cause through accidents – but what if it isn’t an accident?

Strictly speaking if the insurance policy covers accidents, deliberate injuries are excluded.  In a case where the court was asked to rule on the issue, a motorist had attempted to commit suicide by driving his car into a shop front.  The shop claimed on its own insurance, and then their insurance company tried to claim back their money from the driver’s car insurance.  The court ruled that because the policy only covered accidental damage, the driver was not insured for a deliberate act.

However, the Road Traffic Act 1988 says that compulsory third party insurance must provide cover for injuries or death, whether caused deliberately or not.  So are we all driving round partially uninsured?

Fortunately not.  Under European-wide rules on motor insurance, arrangements are in place that require insurers to meet the cover required by the Road Traffic Act, even if the insurance policy excludes part of it.  The insurance industry runs the Motor Insurers’ Bureau, which is there to provide compensation to the victims of uninsured and untraced drivers, and in practice it would be the insurer of the vehicle involved that would have to pay out.

As a further safety net, where the injury is caused deliberately it would amount to a crime.  If those who commit a violent crime do not have the money to pay compensation to their victims if they are sued, the government provides compensation to the victims through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority.  Whilst CICA compensation can often be less generous, and eligibility criteria can mean compensation can be refused altogether, it is sometimes well worth considering as an option.

For guidance on your options if you are the victim of an incident on the road, whether accidental or deliberate, and for support in both getting the right support to recover and the right compensation, contact Richard Moon at richard.moon@hcsolicitors.co.uk or 01733 882800.

Richard Moon

Senior Solicitor, Hunt & Coombs LLP

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This article has been prepared for general interest and information purposes only; it does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on as such. While all possible care has been taken in the preparation of this article, no responsibility for the accuracy and/or correctness of the information and commentary set out in the article, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed or accepted by the firm or the authors.