The authorities are continuously tightening regulations and test standards with regards to learner drivers in the UK. With an increasingly litigious environment it is essential that those learning to drive, and recently qualified drivers, are given as much protection as possible.
Historic data provided by the RAC shows that while teenage drivers (between 17 and 19 years of age) made up only 1.5% of full licence holders in 2013 they were involved in 12% of all road traffic accidents. In these accidents the victims were either seriously hurt or killed. It was also shown that one in five newly qualified drivers were involved in an accident within the first six months of passing their test. So, there is obviously a need to ensure new drivers are ready for the array of different scenarios ahead of them.
If you were involved in a driving lesson accident where do you stand as a claimant or defendant?
Legal Position Of Drivers
There was a very important court case back in 1971 referred to as “Nettleship v Weston” which involved the way in which the courts should treat learner drivers and those who have a full licence. Many people might assume that learner drivers receive a degree of compassion from the courts when involved in accidents, but this is not the case and the Court of Appeal held this position. However, the courts did suggest that fully qualified drivers should be cautious when in the vicinity of learner drivers or those who have just passed their test.
Looking at learner drivers from a legal standpoint they must:
- Be aged 17 or over
- Be supervised by an individual aged 21 years or above with a clean driving licence in the last three years
- Display the relevant L plates
- Hold a provisional licence
These legal responsibilities were introduced as a way to protect learner drivers and ensure that other road users were aware of their potential inexperience. This does not necessarily eliminate accidents involving learner drivers, whether on a driving lesson or driving with a qualified supervisor, but it has reduced the number of accidents.
Accountability Of Driving Instructors
While there is obviously great emphasis on a driving instructor/supervisor to ensure the well-being of their clients, learner drivers also have an obligation to act within the law and respect other road users. We have seen many occasions in the past were driving instructors have intervened to avoid car crashes and potential injuries when learner drivers have been in control of the vehicle. This can be done using dual controls or where the driving instructor takes more traditional control of the vehicle. As the cost of learning to drive continues to increase it is worth noting that we have also seen increases in driving instructor insurance premiums to cover accidents involving themselves or/and learner drivers.
There are a number of situations where a driving instructor may well be held liable for a learner driver accident and subsequent injuries. These include:
- Failing to keep their eyes on the road while the learner driver is in motion
- Being distracted by telephone calls or similar situations
- An inability to react in a reasonable manner to avoid accident and injury
- The use of a defective vehicle which was not fit to drive
There will also be situations where driving schools appoint driving instructors to look after specific clients who may have special requirements or specific needs. If they fail to match the experience of the driving instructor with the requirements of the client, and this resulted in an accident/injury, then they may well be held liable by the courts. A number of driving lesson accident compensation claims have also seen shared negligence where perhaps the learner driver and the driving instructor failed to fulfil their own legal obligations.
Common Learner Car Accident Injuries
Despite the fact that learner drivers tend to drive at a more sedate pace when on the roads there are still many potentially serious injuries which can occur. These include:
Historically, whiplash has been by far and away the most common type of personal injury claim pursued in the UK. It has also attracted the most fraudulent activity although recent action by the UK authorities will reduce the number of dubious claims and compensation awarded.
Learner Car Accidents Involving Third Parties
Unfortunately, no matter how well supervised a learner driver may be there will always be accidents as there are with fully licensed road users. While learner drivers and those holding a full licence would be treated the same by the courts in the event of any accidents and injuries, those with a full licence are expected to proceed with caution when in the vicinity of learner drivers and driving instructors. The displaying of L plates ensures that all drivers and indeed pedestrians are aware that a learner driver is on the road.
Over the years we have seen many instances where relatively cautious learner drivers have been involved in road traffic accidents often through no fault of their own. These include:
- Other road users becoming impatient and undertaking risky manoeuvres
- Peeping of the horn and flashing of the lights which can distract a learner driver
- Leaving inadequate space while overtaking a learner driver
- Leaving inadequate time for a learner driver to turn off a road
There are so many different factors to take into consideration for accidents involving learner drivers and their instructors that it can sometimes become complicated – often resulting in shared negligence.
What To Do After An Accident Involving A Learner Driver
The first thing to do in the event of a learner car accident is to seek medical assistance and to ensure that any treatment is received as soon as possible. In the vast majority of road traffic accidents there will also be a need to involve the police. This ensures that not only are your medical notes updated to reflect any injuries, and the circumstances of the accident, but the account of the police may also be used in a court of law. As these records are created by unconnected third-parties they are held in very high esteem by the law courts.
It will obviously depend upon the severity of any injuries received but as soon as medical assistance has been received, and where possible, further evidence should be gathered. This can include:
- Photographs of the area in which the incident took place
- Photographs of the vehicles involved
- Details of anybody who witnessed the accident
- Insurance details of the party at fault
In the event that the victim is unable to gather evidence because of injuries received it would be useful for a friend, colleague or acquaintance to assist where possible. It is highly likely that evidence from the scene will very quickly be cleaned up thereby potentially weakening a compensation claim. As soon as possible the victim should also make a record of the circumstances surrounding the accident which will allow the courts to receive details of the wider picture.
In the eyes of the law there is a three-year time limit in which to pursue a compensation claim involving a learner driver, with day one the date of the accident or the date that an injury was diagnosed, but it is advisable to pursue a claim sooner rather than later. With the best will in the world, memories can fade often become confusing over time and any uncertainty surrounding prosecution evidence might well impact what was in theory a very strong claim.
Appointing A Personal Injury Solicitor
If you decide to pursue a claim for compensation it is advisable to speak with a personal injury solicitor as soon as possible. While many road traffic accident claims may seem perfectly straightforward on the surface, legal details and procedures need to be adhered to when pursuing compensation. As road traffic accidents are commonplace across the UK, solicitors specialising in these claims should have a depth of experience.
A road traffic accident solicitor will peruse your evidence and timeline of events surrounding the accident and the injuries received. In some circumstances they may require additional medical examinations to clarify the extent of injuries received. You will likely be offered a No Win No Fee arrangement should the solicitor feel you have a good case.
Learner Driver Accident Claim Process
Once you have signed an agreement with your chosen solicitor your claim will be lodged with the courts and a copy made available to the defendant. There are many cases involving learner drivers where it’s clear to see who is at fault, in which event the defendant may want to settle before it goes to court. While this should limit their legal expenses it also ensures that the claimant receives compensation sooner than if the case did go through the courts.
In instances of shared negligence, or where the defendant refutes any negligence, these cases will be heard before the courts with a ruling from the judge.
What Compensation Could You Claim?
Many people are not aware but there are two types of compensation when it comes to road traffic accident personal injury claims which are general damages and special damages. General damages relate to compensation for injuries received and the impact on a person’s life.
- Pain and suffering
- Mental impact
- Injuries that are life changing
The level of general damages awarded will reflect each individual case.
The second type of evidence is special damages which are simply recompense for expenses and funding for future requirements.Special damages take into account factors such as:
- Past and future lost earnings or income
- Medical expenses both past and future
- Repair or replacement of lost or damaged property
- Adaptions/alterations to vehicles and home
There is no degree of variance/discretion for special damages as they are just repayment of expenses and losses. The funding element for future expenses will be calculated by experienced third parties.
If you have been injured in a car accident involving a learner driver or as a learner driver yourself please call us today for expert advice on claiming compensation.