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**This article was updated in September 2018**
Every time you go out in your car, you put ourselves under certain legal obligations. This happens whether you are aware of these duties or not, so it is best to know what your obligations are, and how you must behave to meet them. Knowing this information can also be helpful to recognise when other road users have failed in their duties towards you – something which could lead to a personal injury claim.
The duty of care
As a road user, you owe a legal ‘duty of care’ to all other road users. This means you are obliged to take reasonable care to ensure any action you take, or any action you fail to take, does not cause injury to another road user, or damage to property.
It is important to note that ‘road user’ does not just mean motorists. It also includes pedestrians, cyclists, passengers, motorcyclists, and anyone else who makes use of a road.
So, any road users who fail in their duty of care, and cause a road traffic accident, could be liable for the harm they bring about. But what counts as someone failing in their duty of care?
The standard of care
No road user can be expected to behave perfectly in every situation. But some minimum standards are required of road users by law. Failing to meet these standards will constitute a breach of your duty of care.
The driver of a vehicle is expected to meet the same standards of care and skill as ‘the average motorist’. There is no need to display driving skills comparable to an F1 racing driver or ambulance first-responder – only the skill and attention of the average motorist.
This is what’s called an ‘objective standard’. The standard of care is set and every motorist must meet it. No consideration is given to the individual circumstances or abilities of each motorist. A learner driver who takes control of a car for the very first time is still expected to meet this same standard. If they cause an accident, even if it was through their inexperience, they will be held just as liable for their conduct as someone who had been driving for ten years.
As such, a bad driver cannot avoid liability by arguing that they were taking all the care of which they were capable. Their hopelessness will be no excuse!
Liability for personal injury and damage
If you have suffered a personal injury or other harm due to another driver failing to meet the necessary standards of care, you may be able to claim compensation from them (or, more accurately, from their insurance company or from the Motor Insurers’ Bureau if there is no insurance).
Liability could result from a wide range of behaviour – from acts of negligence that were nothing more than momentary lapse of attention, to reckless or dangerous driving.
If the standard of driving is so poor that there is a criminal prosecution (including a driver being ordered onto a driver improvement course or even a custodial sentence), making a compensation claim against them will be a great deal easier. This is because the ‘burden of proof’ is higher in criminal matters than it is for civil claims – so if evidence of their sub-standard driving is enough to convict them for a criminal offence, it will automatically be sufficient proof to establish their liability for negligence (which is a civil matter).
If you are injured in a car accident because of another road user’s poor driving, then we recommend contacting the police immediately. The police may not investigate but, if they do, then you or your solicitors should be able to obtain a copy of the police’s report once it is completed. A damning report from the police should assist you in any personal injury claim.
Even when fault for an accident is not at issue, you should always instruct specialist personal injury solicitors when making a compensation claim. At Truth Legal, we are experienced personal injury experts. Our specialist solicitors are able to conduct most claims on a ‘No Win, No Fee’ basis.
We offer free consultations, with no-obligation on you to proceed further. If you would like us to take over handling of a personal injury claim which is already ongoing, we can even help you switch solicitors.
Contact us today to discuss your claim.