In my time as a personal injury specialist I came across a few cases of pedestrians who’d been injured (some injuries were life threatening) by drivers who had consumed more than the legal amount of alcohol and were convicted of drink driving offences. On a couple of occasions the claimant’s were under the impression that the driver would have invalidated their insurance by drink driving and therefore there’d be no insurance policy to make a claim against.
Drivers in the UK are legally allowed to drink a small amount of alcohol and still drive a vehicle but the problem is that the small amount can have a massive difference on each individual driver. One driver may remain unaffected and another may not be in control of the vehicle at all.
The first thing to remember when you have an accident and you suspect a driver is drunk is to call the police and wait for them to arrive. If they’re able to breath test the driver and it’s over the limit then this will make a claim much easier as it will prove negligence very easily. The main difference between drink driving and any other personal injury claim is that in most cases the police will prosecute the other driver in the criminal courts.
The thing I tend to tell people is that the insurer of the other car will still be obliged under the Road Traffic Act to cover the liabilities of the driver and that will include any personal injury claim. What the insurer may do however is recoup those costs from the drunk driver as they will more than likely have breached their insurance policy by drinking and driving in the first place, but that’s not your concern.
If a driver makes away from the scene or their insurance refuses to pay out then there’s still an option open to victims of drink driving or more importantly claims against uninsured drivers.
That is to make a claim from the Motor Insurance Bureau.
The Motor Insurance Bureau is a group set up to deal with uninsured and untraced drivers. In the case of a driver who’s policy is deemed invalid because they have been convicted of drinking and driving they effectively become uninsured and therefore a claim may be possible via the MIB. Each year, every person who takes out motor insurance will be paying a contribution to the MIB (around £30 per policy I understand – which means we all end up paying more for our insurance because of uninsured drivers).
As with a claim against a valid insurance policy a claim can be made against the MIB for things like:
- the cost of repair of your vehicle or replacement if your car is written off completely.
- Charges for hiring a vehicle while yours is replaced.
- Loss of use.
- Personal injury claims for treatment, rehabilitation, pain & suffering as well as your legal costs for bringing the claim.
If your car policy is fully comprehensive then you won’t be able to claim for your car repair or replacement but the main thing is that you can proceed with a personal injury claim.
Some people have said to me that it doesn’t seem morally right to claim from the MIB as the ordinary, law-abiding drivers have to bare the costs but I tell them to remember that they are included in that. If you’ve paid your insurance then why not claim against the MIB. That’s what it’s there for and I believe they will still try to locate the drink driver and recover the money paid out to you directly from them. So not being insured or having their insurance invalidate for drink driving could end up hitting them in the pocket as well as the punishment they receive from the criminal court.
The other type of claimant I see for drink driving cases is passengers in a vehicle where their driver had been drink driving and subsequently convicted for the offence. These passengers can make a claim against the drivers insurance policy or again against the Motor Insurers Bureau but they are likely to be paid a lot less due to contributory negligence. If you knew the driver had drunk enough alcohol to reduce their driving ability or if you could’ve worked it out by their actions before driving then compensation will most likely be reduced for you and any other passengers in the car.
In general, I would say that if you’ve been a pedestrian or the driver (or passenger) in a vehicle and you’ve been hit by someone who has been charged or convicted with drink driving then you should make a personal injury claim if you’ve suffered even if their insurance policy has been invalidated.