Legal i

Any old insurance?

There are legal obligations imposed upon drivers and motorcycle riders that, if not met, render an individual guilty of no insurance, an absolute offence, with little opportunity of a defence.

As a driver or rider of a car or motorcycle, you must ensure that the vehicle is registered, insured (the minimum is third-party insurance covering your use of the vehicle), have tax and an MOT where relevant, and that your licence covers you to drive that vehicle at that time. The vehicle must also be roadworthy, as the driver is either fully or partly responsible for the condition of the vehicle at the time that it is being driven. Importantly, you must also meet the minimum eyesight standard and be fully fit to drive the vehicle. Any relevant changes to your physical health or signs of impairment, should be reported to the DVLA if they fall within the necessary criteria, published on Government information sites, and contained within the documentation sent by the DVLA with any new licence. Drivers of larger vehicles must pass the higher medical and eyesight tests.

All learner drivers must be correctly supervised by a qualified driver and must display L plates, or D plates in Wales. If required, you must be able to immediately show your insurance policy, driving licence and MOT certificate to a police officer, otherwise you will be required to do so within 7 days of the requirement being made.

Check your status

Driving without insurance is an absolute offence. If you are not insured, the defences available are extremely narrow. Full transparency, including updating your insurers with changes in circumstances, is a necessity. Ignorance is not a defence, nor is the fact that a direct debit has lapsed unknowingly, or your account details have altered, and payment cannot therefore be taken. It is the responsibility of the driver of the vehicle to ensure that the correct cover is in place. 

Frequently, drivers are caught out unwittingly, finding themselves in situations where, having thought they were insured, assuming that they would be fully indemnified if the worst happens and they are involved in a road traffic collision, but subsequently discover that they are not. We urge people to check the small print to ensure that they are completely protected. A simple omission or oversight could render an insurance policy void.

Additional protection

There is no doubt that Legal Expenses Insurance is an invaluable asset. That extra ticked box often secures funding, and therefore protection, that may otherwise be financially impossible to access. Equally, it is certainly worth checking that the additional benefit delivers what the insured person assumes that they are paying for. Motor Legal Protection is an umbrella term that can incorporate a whole spectrum of varying cover. Some policies only cover cases where a claim is made in a civil court, which is absolutely no use at all where a driver is charged with a criminal offence that they may not be guilty of.

The most serious of motoring cases often conclude at the Crown Court and sometimes beyond, in the Court of Appeal or High Court. In cases of this nature, funding can often run into six figures, unless legally aided, when the minimum rates of funding available often attract the most basic representation. Being in the lofty position of being able to secure the most specialised team to represent yourself, may be an unaffordable luxury without the benefit of a perfectly tailored insurance policy.

The question as to the benefits of securing the best insurance protection crops up frequently. Many drivers find themselves the target for criminals looking to make thousands of pounds from innocent keepers of high value cars, by reporting fabricated offences.

Example:

Driver A (the target) is making their way to work along an A-road, devoid of surveillance cameras, in their high value car, when Driver B (the criminal) swerves into the path of Driver A, causing Driver A to hit the rear section of Driver B’s car. Driver A is targeted specifically, on the assumption that they are sufficiently insured for third party loss and injury.

The vehicles collide. Driver B records the damage in photographs and requests all insurance details etc from Driver A. Driver B immediately reports Driver A (the target) to the Police for dangerous driving, providing factually incorrect information e.g. that Driver A was driving erratically, swerving into their vehicle, racing, terrifying their passengers (all of whom will testify at trial to Driver A’s dangerous driving and complain of ongoing, fake injuries).

Driver A is subsequently invited for an interview under caution at a police station and often charged. The case progresses to court, the Prosecution open their case at its highest, so allege dangerous driving on the basis of Driver B and Driver B’s passengers’ accounts. The burden is upon Driver A to defend the allegation against him to the criminal standard. It is their word against that of Driver B and Driver B’s passengers.

The sentencing range available to the court for an offence of dangerous driving, contrary to s.2 Road Traffic Act 1988, is two years’ custody and an obligatory 12-month minimum disqualification with an extended re-test.

In this instance, Driver A is sufficiently insured. He instructs his preferred legal team who attend with him at the police station interview. Representations are made to the Police on his behalf immediately after interview, pointing out a plethora of inconsistencies in the witnesses’ accounts, and the case is dropped. Had the case progressed to court, with the benefit of his cover which includes representation in defending criminal charges, most, if not all, of his legal costs would have been covered by his policy of insurance.

Company vehicles’ insurance policies

We encounter countless instances where the lack of, or insufficient insurance, results in outcomes that our clients never imagined possible. Our advice is to check and double-check the nature and extent of any policy of insurance before driving or riding a motorcycle.

It is often the case that the driver will not have any involvement in the process of choosing or paying for the motor insurance for the vehicle they are driving. Hauliers’ administration teams are frequently responsible for ensuring that policies are accurate and up to date. Similarly, the administrators of company fleet vehicles will most often be tasked with insuring the whole of the fleet of vehicles. Although driver employees may be misled into believing that they are indemnified for all eventualities and may be able to advance a defence on that basis, decisions of the Court can never be guaranteed. 

We would advise all drivers to ask for a copy of the policy document of the vehicle they are driving, together with any add on policies, and to check and retain a copy of all documents before setting off on their journey.

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