Last last year a motorcyclist was killed when an off-duty police officer pulled out of a side road and into the motorcyclist’s path. The car driver was cleared of all charges against her for both careless and dangerous driving. On the surface this may appear like a gross miscarriage of justice but that will depend on what you perceive justice to be.
With road traffic accidents such as this, the case goes beyond just the Judge and Jury criminal stage. Because this is what the media chooses to emphasise, the wider public are often unaware that even if criminal charges are either not brought or are unsuccessful, a civil case can still be raised.
At Motorcycle Law Scotland we specialise in the civil law. This means that we do not need to prove beyond all reasonable doubt that somebody caused an accident because they were driving in a careless or dangerous manner; instead we work with the civil burden of proof.
The test in civil cases is a lower standard and requires us to prove our case on a balance of probability. By this I mean that we rely on the negligence of the driver and their failure to abide by the Highway Code. For example, their failure to keep a proper look out for other road users or a failure to provide a safe stopping distance.
In such cases, we are looking for a monetary award for either the injured party or, in the tragic case of a fatal accident, the family they leave behind. An action would be raised against the motor insurers of the party that caused the accident. This is not something that can be sought in the criminal court.
Although it may seem like an injustice when a driver has caused the death of another road user and they are not punished by a jail sentence, it is arguably the civil route that can bring the most comfort to the affected family. It is an unfortunate reality that nothing can bring a loved one back but what the civil courts seek to do is provide compensation for that loss. This can be invaluable financial support to the family to allow them to move on with their lives as best as they can. Or, in non-fatal cases, the court can provide a monetary award to help re-build the injured person’s life and cover any future care costs.
We all hope that neither ourselves nor our families are involved in such accidents and rightly so but what people need to be aware of is that justice does not stop at the criminal court. Justice can be done by way of a financial compensation award within the civil court process and for many this means and does more than any criminal conviction could ever do.