Will I have to pay compensation for damage I caused?
One thing many of our clients worry about is whether they will have to pay compensation for damage caused by them. The starting point is that a criminal court CAN order you to pay compensation for losses caused as the result of a criminal driving offence committed by you; however, there are a number of caveats that your solicitor should be aware of if compensation is sought.
What compensation can be obtained is strictly limited in driving cases to losses that:
- Are not covered by insurance.
- Result from an offence under the Theft Act or Fraud Act.
- Where there has been a death; however, in this case there are more restrictions on what can be claimed and what can’t.
In most cases, the compensation will be recoverable if there was no insurance to pay out for the loss. The most common example is the court awarding compensation equal to the amount of the other driver’s insurance excess. In some cases, though, the prosecution tries to claim far more back. We had a recent dangerous driving case where the prosecution sought to claim nearly £10,000 in assorted losses from our client.
Any compensation claimed should be properly set out and a breakdown of what is claimed and what it is for available. In our recent case, the £10,000 consisted of injuries suffered, damage to a vehicle, memberships the injured person had been unable to use due to her injuries, lost jewellery, lost income and so on. There was no proper breakdown of the value of each item nor any proper explanation for how the jewellery had gone missing. We were also missing details of the injuries never mind any actual medical evidence. This is very important as the case of R v Donovan tells us that compensation should only be granted where the losses are readily and easily ascertainable. Where the losses are not clear the criminal courts should decline to proceed, and the claim should be taken up in the civil law courts.
A solicitor should consider with his or her client whether the client actually accepts that the losses are their responsibility, e.g. do you agree that injury was suffered or jewellery was lost as a result of the car crash? If the answer is no then the criminal courts should not consider the matter any further and again it should be taken up with the civil courts. In the case of R v Stapylton the appeal court went so far as to say that criminal compensation exists for simple and easy to deal with matters only. The court in that case ruled that criminal courts have no jurisdiction to make an order where there is real disagreement whether the injured person had suffered a loss and/or the value of that loss.
In the case we dealt with for £10,000, we argued against compensation on three grounds. First that because the majority of the items claimed for should be covered by insurance the court had no power to award compensation at all. Secondly, we argued that even if the court felt they did have a power then they should not award compensation because the claim was insufficiently clear as to both the value of each item claimed and the exact nature of each item, e.g. how did a car crash cause the loss of jewellery, what was the jewellery and how much was it worth? Finally, we argued that even if the court felt the figures they had been given were sufficient then they should not make any order for compensation because there is a real dispute that would need to be heard at a trial as to how items were lost, their true value, and whether our client was responsible for those losses at all.
The court also heard from the prosecution but declined to award compensation.
If you are attending court and want to be represented by specialist motoring solicitors then call us on 020 8242 4440 or send us a message via our contact page.