Previously, negligent road users could only be charged with the more serious offence of causing death or serious injury by dangerous driving which demands a higher threshold of evidence.
The new law, which carries a sentence of up to two years in prison, is part of the Police, Crime and Sentencing Courts Bill and was created precisely to close the loophole allowing drivers who cause permanent disability or injury through careless driving to avoid prosecution.
The new offence, which, according to the RAC has taken five years to implement, is part of a Government campaign to improve driving standards and to punish those who do not give their full attention to the road.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps' plans to focus on drug-driving also means drivers who cause death by careless driving or while under the influence of drink or drugs can now face life imprisonment. Currently, only drink-drivers and not drug-drivers must complete mandatory rehabilitation programmes.
The opinion of leading forensic collision investigator Mark Crouch is that the definition of a serious injury can range from relatively minor injuries such as a broken leg or those requiring a short stay in hospital to injuries that are all but fatal.
His view is that a number of defendants will now likely be charged via the new law and far fewer with the more serious offence of dangerous driving.
In terms of civil claims such as cycling and motorbike accident claims as well as other road traffic accident claims, it will hugely benefit the progression of such cases. When criminal charges are successfully brought against a defendant, it is more straightforward for the personal injury team to achieve an admission of liability from the defendant insurer. Once liability is admitted, interim payments and final settlement will generally proceed more quickly.
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