How does the Road Traffic Act 1988 apply to injury claims?

Making a successful road traffic accident compensation claim requires the claimant to prove that the defendant's actions fell below the acceptable standard of a road user, and that these actions caused the claimant's injuries.

The Road Traffic Act (RTA) 1988 includes a range of legislation concerning drivers and other road users. Some of this legislation may be used to establish that the defendant's driving or conduct was negligent and will help in bringing an injury claim after a road accident.

Using the roads safely

Whilst it is not possible to fully guarantee the safety of all other road users, every road user has a duty of care to take reasonable steps to avoid accidents and reduce injuries.

One of the purposes of the Act is to minimise the risk of accidents or injury from accidents. Breaching legislation set out in the Act may also be a prosecutable offence.

Offences include:

  • Dangerous driving
  • Careless driving or driving without reasonable consideration
  • Leaving the vehicle in a dangerous position
  • Dangerous cycling
  • Careless cycling
  • Disobeying certain traffic signs and police signals

If it is determined that a defendant has breached the RTA regulations and caused an accident, criminal proceedings may or may not be undertaken.

Whether or not an injury claim will succeed is generally independent of any such criminal proceedings, and a claim may be successful even if a defendant driver is not successfully prosecuted.

Contributory negligence

The defendant may not be entirely responsible for the accident, nor for the injuries that have been sustained.

The claimant may also be found to have breached sections of the Act and contributed either to the accident or to his injuries.

For example, injuries sustained may be worse if the claimant was a motorcyclist and not wearing the correct protective headgear for motor cycle drivers and passengers. An adult car driver or passenger not wearing a seatbelt would also be in breach of the law.

Exchanging particulars after a road accident

When an accident involving a motor vehicle has occurred, Section 170 of the RTA states that the driver has a duty to stop sufficiently long enough to exchange particulars. This includes giving his name and address, that of the owner of the vehicle and the identification marks of the vehicle.

If the driver fails to comply at the scene of the accident, he must report the accident to a police constable or police station as soon as reasonably practicable; in practice, this is expected to be within a maximum of 24 hours.

It is also a breach of the Act if a driver fails to provide names and addresses of driver and vehicle owner or does not produce evidence of insurance or security and test certificates within 5 days when required to do so by the police.

This required information will assist the claimant's solicitor in identifying the defendant and their insurer. In practice, it will be the insurer's legal representatives who will be defending the claim.

Drivers must have third-party insurance cover

As successful claims for compensation are generally paid through the defendant's insurers, section 143 of the RTA requires all drivers to have 3rd party insurance cover as a minimum.

The policy must insure for death or bodily injury to any person, or damage to property, caused by, or arising out of, the use of a vehicle on a road in Great Britain.

Section 145 states the policy must be issued by an authorised insurer - who is also required to belong to the Motor Insurers' Bureau (MIB) and to contribute to its funding.

The MIB provides a means by which members of the public who have been injured or had their property damaged by another driver can claim compensation, even if the driver in untraceable or uninsured.

When a claimant is looking to issue proceedings for injuries or property damage caused by another driver, notice should be given to the defendant's insurer under section 151 of the RTA. This section operates to prevent the insurer from refusing to pay out on the insurance policy even if there were grounds for the insurer to avoid or cancel the policy (such as the defendant operating the vehicle under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident).

See also:

Road traffic accident compensation claims

How did your injury happen?

The claims process for a road traffic injury will depend on where and how the accident happened. Click the icons below for more information:

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