Applicant’s Award Lowered on Appeal

(Underwood v Underwood [2018] WADC 13)

On the 1st of December 2015, an argument took place at a residence in Safety Bay, during which the appellant slapped the respondent across the face once with an open palm and also kicked her left leg once. The respondent sustained bruising and swelling to the left side of her face and bruising to her left leg. An ambulance attended the scene and conveyed her to the Rockingham Hospital. In the same incident, the appellant kicked a third party in the testicles for which she was charged with a common assault. The appellant pleaded guilty to the assault and was sentenced on 2 March 2016.

The respondent lodged a Criminal Injuries Compensation claim and the Criminal Injuries Compensation Assessor awarded the respondent $16,221 for her injuries, to which, the appellant appealed and contended that the determination was manifestly excessive.

During the appeal the Court had to determine 6 key points, namely:

  • to what extent is an applicant for criminal injuries compensation permitted to adduce evidence going beyond the facts on which the offender was convicted?
  • has the psychological report relied on by the respondent based on impermissible factual material?
  • has the respondent proven that her psychological injuries were suffered as a consequence of the commission of the assault on her by the appellant?
  • has the respondent proven that she sustained an aggravation to a pre-existing back injury?
  • what award of compensation was appropriate?
  • Should any award of compensation be reduced due to the respondent’s behaviour pursuant to s 41 of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Act 2003?

After coming to a determination on these points during trial, the judge found that “the two injuries I have found the respondent to have sustained as a consequence of the commission of the Assault are PTSD and an aggravation of her pre-existing degenerative back injury. As to the former, the PTSD symptoms resolved with treatment with a few months, and there is no further treatment required. At to the latter, it is clear from the evidence that the respondent’s pre-existing back injury had required intervention prior to the Assault and would in any event have required intervention after the Assault.  So, the extent of the aggravation was not significant…” and awarded $5,000 for non-economic loss and $1,221 for medical expenses and a medical report.

The Court concluded that none of the grounds raised by the appellant had merit, except for the fact that the award was excessive considering the available medical evidence and proceeded to vary the Assessor’s award from $16,221 to $6,221, with costs of the Appeal.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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A Major Win After a Tough Few Years


The appellant, who is now 27 years old, was seriously assaulted by the respondent on 13 April 2013. The respondent was convicted after trial, on 6 May 2014, of the offence of doing grievous bodily harm (the offence).

On 23 June 2014 the respondent was sentenced for the offence to a term of imprisonment of 6 years, backdated to 13 April 2013 with eligibility for parole. The findings of fact by the sentencing judge included that while the appellant and the respondent were at a friend’s house, the appellant was physically assaulted by the respondent and then taken into the back-garden area of the house adjoining the carport, where “for no reason that can be discerned” the respondent used an accelerant spray of some kind and set the appellant alight. His clothing caught fire, he lost consciousness, but regained same a little time later and felt that he was burning. The appellant suffered serious burns to his body, in particular his left forearm, hand and right chest, which required skin grafts, and he has been left with permanent scars.

The appellant made an application for criminal injuries compensation pursuant to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Act 2003 (the Act) in respect of his injuries and consequent losses. On 18 November 2016, the Chief Assessor of Criminal Injuries Compensation (the assessor) awarded Mr Majok criminal injuries compensation in the sum of $23,100. That sum included $1,100 for medical report fees.

On 1 December 2016, the appellant filed a notice of appeal against the decision of the assessor on the ground that the award of compensation made to him was “so manifestly inadequate as to constitute an error of law”.

The claimed inadequacy in the award to the appellant related to three areas:

  • the physical injuries suffered by the appellant, in particular the scarring to his hands, left forearm and chest;
  • the mental or nervous shock he suffered as a consequence of the offence; and
  • the failure of the assessor to allow any award for past loss of earnings or future loss of earning capacity.

The appellant also sought the cost of future medical treatment, based on the new evidence from his treating doctor.

In the findings the presiding Judge stated, “… the pain and suffering and residual scarring alone are enough for me to conclude that the award of damages of $22,000 is inadequate…”

The court stated that it was satisfied that the appellant has suffered and still suffers from mental and nervous shock within the meaning of the Act, namely PTSD, depression and anxiety and somatic delusions, as a result of the offence and the injuries he received.The court indicated that it had no doubt that the assault on the appellant and the burns he suffered during the offence would have been a very traumatic experience.

The Judge concluded “… for the reasons which follow I consider that the award of damages to Mr Majok was manifestly inadequate. I have allowed the appeal and assessed Mr Majok’s damages as the maximum allowable under the Act of $75,000.”

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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A Few Quiet Drinks Turns into a Life Changing Situation

RE PIGGOTT [2017] WADC 150

Mr Piggott and Mr Benjamin Browne were involved in an incident at Mr Browne’s residence. During the incident Mr Browne struck Mr Piggott and Mr Piggott sustained grievous bodily harm. At the time there were four adults at the residence. Mr Browne’s wife, Mrs Taryn Browne, says she was inside. His brother, Mr Nathan Browne, says he was around the corner relieving himself. Mr Browne and Mr Piggott both give vastly different accounts of what occurred.

Shortly after the incident Mr Piggott left the residence and was spoken to by ambulance officers. The police spoke to Mr Piggott and Mr Browne on the night in question. Mr Piggott was taken to hospital, treated and then discharged. About a week later he underwent surgery to his injuries.

Initially he did not make a formal complaint to police, but later on Mr Piggott applied for compensation under s 17 of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Act 2003 (WA) (the Act). An assessor of Criminal Injuries Compensation (Assessor) refused the application as the Assessor was not satisfied on a balance of probabilities that an alleged offence occurred. Mr Piggott appealed to the District Court of Western Australia against that decision.

The issues on appeal were as follows:

  • whether the court was satisfied on the balance of probabilities that an alleged offence was committed against Mr Piggott;
  • whether Mr Piggott was engaged in criminal conduct at the time he sustained the alleged injury;
  • whether Mr Piggott, by his behaviour, contributed to the alleged injury; and
  • if the court was satisfied that it was appropriate to make an award, the amount of the award to be made.

Multiple witnesses were called to recollect their version of events, including ambulance and police officers who attended the incident, with different versions provided.

As to whether an alleged offence had been committed, the judge on appeal found that he was “… not satisfied that it is more likely than not that the grievous bodily harm was unlawfully caused. Mr Piggott has to satisfy me that the bodily harm was unlawfully caused and all I am able to say is that there was a verbal confrontation then a physical confrontation between the two men resulting in Mr Browne causing grievous bodily harm to Mr Piggott. In light of the intoxication of both men, the fact that both have, in my view, changed aspects of their evidence so that it fits with other evidence, and the defects in their evidence I am not able to say exactly what occurred in the physical confrontation.

As to whether Mr Piggott was engaged in criminal conduct at the time of the injury, the judge on appeal stated that “if the court is satisfied that Mr Piggott’s behaviour contributed to the alleged offence, the court may either refuse to make a compensation award or reduce the amount that would otherwise have been awarded” and went on to find that he was “ not satisfied it is more likely than not that Mr Browne was not acting in self-defence nor satisfied that it is more likely than not that his acts were not retaliation which went beyond self-defence in response to Mr Piggott’s assault and therefore the application ought be dismissed.”


The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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Day Off Turns Into a Nightmare


On 8 April 2014 (on a rostered day off), Ms Wyatt attended the hospital where she worked to complete a form that had been requested of her previously. It is accepted that her attendance did not relate to the nursing duties for which she was employed. As she went to sit on a chair proximate to the computer she intended to use, she missed the chair, landed heavily on her buttocks on the floor and suffered injury. Thereafter, Ms Wyatt commenced a workers’ compensation claim for weekly payments of compensation and statutory expenses.

The hospital denied liability and disputed the fact of the injury arose out of or in the course of her employment with it.

On 29 November 2016, an arbitrator at WorkCover found in favour of Ms Wyatt and ordered that the hospital pay her weekly payments of compensation for total incapacity for the period from 8 April 2014 to 12 November 2014 and from 12 to 22 January 2015.

The hospital appealed the arbitrator’s decision, pursuant to section 247(1) of the Workers’ Compensation and Injury Management Act. The issues for the appeal were:

  • whether the factual material placed before the arbitrator compelled a finding that the Ms Wyatt’s injury was in fact suffered in the course of her employment, notwithstanding that she had not been rostered to work on that day and had attended her place of work of her own volition; or
  • whether Ms Wyatt’s attendance at the hospital on that day was reasonably required, expected or authorised in order to carry out her actual duties or necessarily incidental thereto, that is to say, in the context of what Ms Wyatt was employed to do.

The court observed that after “… having reviewed the arbitrator’s findings and reasons, I am satisfied that in making the finding that the arbitrator did not apply the correct test when determining if the respondent’s injury occurred in the course of her employment…”.

The judge found that he was “…. satisfied that the arbitrator was in error in focusing on what the respondent (Ms Wyatt) was doing at the time, rather than whether the appellant (the hospital) had induced or encouraged the respondent to engage in that activity at the time and the place when she suffered the injury …” and dismissed Ms Wyatt’s appeal.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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‘Relatively Easily’ Brain Surgery Has Tragic Results


Prior to his injuries the plaintiff was a very social person. He enjoyed a range of leisure activities like, fishing and cooking, home handy work including renovating and tinkering with cars, and enjoyed his work as well.

In December 2005, the plaintiff was diagnosed with a brain tumour. He had been experiencing headaches for some time, he was referred to a neurosurgeon.

The tumour was determined to be benign but needed to be removed. The plaintiff and his wife were advised that this kind of tumour was ‘relatively easily’ managed. The phrase ‘relatively easily’ must of course be understood in the particular context of brain surgery, with all its significant inherent risk.

On 23 January 2006, the neurosurgeon performed the required surgery and about 90% of the tumour mass was removed.

The headaches began to return however, along with some vision problems. Once again, the neurosurgeon was consulted. He advised that it would be necessary to deal with the part of the tumour that remained.

The plaintiff was admitted to hospital for the surgery. The surgery was performed the next day. It was not a success. In the course of the surgery the neurosurgeon nicked the plaintiff’s carotid artery causing worrying bleeding. The attempt to remove the tumour was abandoned.

When the plaintiff left hospital, his condition was stable, except perhaps for a fairly constant and consistent mucous discharge from his nose. The plaintiff had been advised not to blow his nose, but this discharge meant that he was constantly wiping it.

Over the course of the next few weeks the plaintiff and his wife consulted with the neurosurgeon many times over the phone seeking medical advice, including for a severe sneeze suffered by the plaintiff.

In the early hours of one morning, the plaintiff’s wife woke up to find him complaining about having ‘quite a severe headache’.

The following morning, the plaintiff’s wife called the neurosurgeon and told him that her husband had a very uncomfortable night, that he was in a lot of pain, and that he had a really bad headache. She said that he responded by saying to her something to the effect of ‘well you need to take him into the emergency department. There could be something going on with his aneurysm thing and he just needs to be in the hospital over the weekend so that they can observe him’.

After presenting to the hospital, the plaintiff was admitted to a ward, an observation made suggested that the plaintiff was ‘OK‘. Just eight minutes later he was ‘found to be unresponsive’ and experiencing ‘hemiplegia‘ (That is, one side of his body was paralysed). Shortly after this he lost consciousness, an emergency team was called, and the plaintiff was intubated and ventilated. By this time a bacterial meningitis had caused the plaintiff severe and irreversible brain damage.

The plaintiff continued to have multiple medical episodes, being the result of neurological problems caused by the brain injury.


The breach alleged against the neurosurgeon by both the plaintiff and the hospital was that he neurosurgeon failed to provide the plaintiff with an appropriate warning or advice after the plaintiff had sneezed out a piece of what appeared to be fatty material. The neurosurgeon should have told him to immediately go to hospital if he developed ‘other symptoms including a more severe headache, stiff neck, high temperature or photophobia‘. That obligation is said to arise from a number of facts and circumstances, sometimes summarised by the notion that the plaintiff was a ‘complicated case’.

The plaintiff’s allegation of breach as against the hospital is that, given the plaintiff’s history and his symptoms on presentation at the ED and throughout the course of the day, the staff at RPH failed to act in a timely way to treat the plaintiff’s bacterial meningitis.


The judge stated that “the plaintiff’s former life has been taken from him. He is left not only with significant physical disabilities, but with the cognitive and emotional problems that have been described, there is no prospect whatever of recovery” and had no hesitation in finding that the failure to commence intravenous antibiotics and corticosteroids by a certain time breached the duty of care owed by the hospital to the plaintiff. In that regard, the evidence presented was that if the plaintiff had been treated with intravenous antibiotics and corticosteroids earlier, then, on the balance of probabilities, the plaintiff would not have suffered an adverse outcome from the bacterial meningitis infection.


The judge ordered that the plaintiff should have judgment against the hospital for a substantial amount but dismissed the action against the neurosurgeon.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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5 Questions To Ask Your Lawyer

Choosing the right lawyer for your individual case is essential to getting the result you want. In order to find out if a lawyer is right for you, here at 5 crucial questions to ask:

1: What kind of lawyer are they?

Some lawyers are “general practitioners” who work on a variety of types of legal cases, including personal injury cases. With a serious personal injury claim, you need an expert lawyer who handles personal injury cases on daily basis. The practice of law has become so complex that is it practically impossible for a ‘jack of all trades’ lawyer to stay on top of all the changes in personal injury law practices. The majority of lawyers who are hired by insurance companies to defend personal injury cases are experienced experts who limit their practice to the defence of personal injury cases. A non-expert lawyer is likely to be at a large disadvantage when they represent a claimant against a law firm that specializes in the defence of personal injuries cases (on behalf of insurance companies).

2: Track record: Have they taken cases similar to this one in the past? How many? What was the result?

Even though a lawyer may specialise in a particular practice they may not be particularly accomplished in it. They may be new to the area of practice, practice it part of the time, or might just be unskilled. How many cases like yours have they handled in the past? Experienced personal injury lawyers who have been helping claimants with cases for many years will have gained valuable negotiation and trial expertise. They should have knowledge about the legal circumstances of a case like yours. In addition to experience, your lawyer to have a proven track record of success on cases similar to yours. Ask the lawyer what results they have had in the past, good or bad. Reading about previous success stories will give you an idea of the possible results and your lawyer’s abilities.

3: How long does the attorney think it will take to resolve this case?

Time is a precious resource when you’re in the processing of claiming compensation, medical expenses and time out of work add up. Knowing approximately how long it will take before you are compensated for your injuries helps in preparing yourself for the process ahead. It is important to know how long your life may be disrupted by attendance at legal proceedings, investigative doctor visits as these unseen time costs can add to the stress of your situation. There are a number of factors that will affect the duration of a trial, therefore while a lawyer will not be able to give you a precise time frame, they should be able to give a general indication based on how long cases comparable to yours have taken in the past.

4: Who will actually be servicing your case?

The lawyer you meet with at the initial consultation should also be the lawyer handling your case in order to get the best service and representation. Most large law firms use an approach where you will be initially speaking to a partner or higher up who is experienced and skilled but then your case will be handed down to a junior lawyer or general team. You need to know the name of the lawyer who is actually doing the legal work on your claim and if that lawyer is a specialist in personal injury law. If not, they are not the right lawyer.

5: Do I feel comfortable with this lawyer handling my case?

This is as an important question as any, as with many things in life, often our gut instinct is right. In your first meeting with a lawyer, you should be able to feel if you can trust them with your personal injury case. Trust, communication and honesty are essential qualities of a good personal injury lawyer and you should only pick a lawyer that you believe can get the best result for you.

Contact us with any queries you may have, and to check all of the above points! We can come out to you for a no obligation free first consultation.

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Your Guide To Legal Language

Having trouble trying to decipher the legal language? Here’s our glossary to all the legal terms and terminology you might need to know.

Affidavit: An affidavit is a written statement setting out a person’s evidence, that is, information that tends to prove or disprove a fact. Affidavits can come from witnesses, experts, or the plaintiff or defendant.

Appeal: A challenge to the ruling on a claim.

Arbitration: A legal negotiation between two parties guided by a neutral mediator without involving courts or judges.

Assumption of Risk: When a person engages in a behaviour and is aware of the risks that can caused injury.

Burden of Proof: The burden of proof is the legal obligation to prove the legitimacy of your claims.

Catastrophic Injuries: Severe injuries which include physical and psychological impairments, often related to the skull or brain, neck, spine, spinal cord, back or organs. Catastrophic injuries can also include burns. See more about these type of injuries here.

Claim: A civil action regarding the physical or mental harm suffered by the plaintiff, or on behalf of the injured victim, due to negligence of the defendant; a request to the insurance company by the insured requesting coverage and payment for damage or injury.

Comparative Fault: Sometimes known as “comparative negligence,” comparative fault gives fault to both parties based on the level their actions were responsible for the injury.

Complaint: The first document filed with the court by the accuser outlining the claim and starting the lawsuit.

Contributory Negligence: The determination that the claimant is partially or fully responsible for the injury based on their actions. Contributory negligence is negligence by the injured party that combines with the negligence of another in causing the injury, which reduces the damages awarded by a percentage.

Damages: Damages are the compensation awarded to the claimant for their loss or injury, what a claimant seeks to recover in a lawsuit, which in a personal injury lawsuit is financial compensation. Damages can take the form of measurable economic damages, such as medical and rehabilitation expenses, wage loss and lost future income, or non-economic damages, which are not explicitly measureable, such as pain, suffering and humiliation.

Defendant: The individual or entity being sued in court.

Discovery: Discovery is the name given to the process by which each party is required to produce to the court and each other party all documents and information in its possession that are relevant to the proceeding.

Evidence: The proof of the claim including testimony, exhibits, documentary material, or demonstrative evidence.

Litigation: The formal process of filing a lawsuit.

Negligence: A failure to use a reasonable amount of care to prevent a foreseeable injury. To prove negligence, a claimant must prove: the defendant had a duty of care or obligation to them, the defendant violated or breached that duty, the breach caused damage to the defendant, and actual damages resulted.

Plaintiff (or Claimant): The injured party filing a complaint.

Preponderance Of Evidence: The amount of evidence needed to win a case.

Statute of Limitations: The maximum time after an event that legal proceedings can take place.

Strict Liability: Liability that does not include fault or negligence.

Settlement: A legally binding agreement between the plaintiff and defendant reached outside of court.

Torts: A civil wrong, in the case of negligence: an action that results in injury or loss.

Verdict: The court’s ruling on a case.

Whiplash: Whiplash (injury) , also known as whiplash associated disorder or a soft tissue injury, is injury to the tendons, muscles and ligaments from the sudden jolting forwards and then backwards (or backwards and then forwards) in a whip-like movement or through sudden forcible rotation.

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Car accident causes – driver distractions

According to government figures, 58% of drivers admit that using their mobile phone is their biggest distraction while driving. Other distractions include time pressures, food and drink, and using the stereo or changing music.

We’ve written all about Motor Vehicle Accidents previously

Distraction caused by passengers, eating and drinking, in-car technology and stimulus outside the car will be discussed as potential car accident causes below. Read an overview of car accidents.


While driving companions can be a saving grace on long-distance road trips, they are a potential car accident hazard for the most part.

Passengers, especially if they don’t drive themselves, have a habit of asking you questions when you are trying to negotiate with traffic at roundabouts and junctions. You may also find that they think they know best and will begin to challenge you about your driving aptitude, again highly distracting.

If asked to navigate, passengers often contribute to hazardous situations by yelling out sudden instructions like “turn left now” when you have already passed the turning. Any driver caught unaware may make a sudden turn and end up hurtling into the street post.

Parents travelling with children in the back are statistically at even higher risk of being distracted and causing a car accident. There have been many cases where drivers have glanced in the rear-view mirror or even turned their head for a split-second to see what their kids are up to and caused a car accident as a result. Read more about car accident incidence rates and gender.

In-car technology and mobile phones

In-car technology is a growing concern for road safety specialists. As the digital age evolves we are seeing the introduction of satellite navigation systems and DVD players to our cars as standard. Then, of course, there is the ongoing battle of mobile phone use while behind the wheel.

Many drivers are now opting for cars that have built in GPS Satellite Navigation Systems which can pinpoint a particular destination via satellite and provide you with directions through a computerised voice on how to get there. This modern alternative to the map is handy for finding your way around but is not always reliable and motorists have been known to cause car accidents while fiddling around with the controls.

Use of a hand-held mobile phone while driving has been banned in the UK since December 2003. Motorists are not even allowed to talk or text on the phone if stopped at traffic lights or in a traffic jam.

However, motorists are still permitted to use their mobile phone if they have a hands-free kit. But, it is worth considering that if you are involved in a car accident while using a hands-free phone, you risk prosecution for failing to have proper control of the vehicle and are likely to receive a careless driving charge.

While we have had car stereos for many years and most wouldn’t regard them as particularly distracting, a recent Australian study revealed that drivers find adjusting their stereo more distracting than using their hands-free mobile phone to make a call. Results showed that those distracted by audio systems while driving braked 10 km per hour slower than focussed drivers while drivers using their hands-free mobile braked 6 km per hour slower.

However, with the introduction of MP3 players and Ipods which have the capacity for hundreds of songs you can store all your favourite tunes and will have less cause to take your attention away from the wheel to skip to the next track.

Parents are also investing in DVD players to entertain their kids in the back of the car. While this is a great ploy to stop joyous chants like “Are we nearly there yet”, loud and sudden noises or a particularly interesting storyline may distract the driver’s attention with fateful consequences.

Want to avoid the consequences of an accident? Learn how: Motor Vehicle Accident Causes.

Eating and drinking

Not many motorists are aware that it is illegal to eat and drink while driving and both of these offences are covered by careless driving laws. Road safety experts believe that eating while driving is just as distracting as using a mobile phone for the following reasons.

Firstly, eating while you drive may require you to remove your hands from the wheel. You may need to open an awkward packet or bottle and eating some foods such as crisps require the use of two hands.

Secondly, some snack foods like chocolate release certain mood-altering chemicals into the brain. For example, scientists have found that chocolate contains tryptophan which can produce feelings of elation, a similar effect to ecstasy. Phenylethylamine is another active ingredient, which works similarly to amphetamines, promoting feelings of giddiness and apprehension, while anandamide targets the brain in a similar way to cannabis.

You may be so overcome by the chemical reactions which occur while enjoying your food that you cause a car crash. However, most would have to eat a fairly large quantity of chocolate before it had a significant impact on their driving ability. Read more about drug driving.

Thirdly, burgers, chips, pies and other greasy foods will get all over your fingers causing a constant urge to lick them or wipe them on something, again requiring you to remove your hands from the wheel. You may even transfer grease to the steering wheel which could cause your hands to slip, the car to swerve and subsequently a car accident to occur.

Outside the car

Just as chatty passengers, the demands of small children in the back seat, eating and in-car technology can be a distraction inside the car, there is a wealth of distractions outside too. How often has an attractive passer by caught your eye when you are supposed to be concentrating on the road? Then there are random sights like students running around in their pyjamas beside the M40 in aid of RAG week that are bound to make you look twice.

As the advertising industry continues to boom we see more and more distractions popping up at the roadsides. Billboards are becoming larger, more colourful and even incorporate moving pictures into their design so it is hardly surprising that they grab our attention.

One particularly dangerous ploy is to use the art of seduction on roadside billboards. One glance at a larger than life Eva Herzigova sporting a Wonderbra is guaranteed to turn the head of most red-blooded males and, if traveling at 60mph along the motorway, this could result in a serious car accident.

In fact, a study has found that provocative pictures can leave you temporarily blind and unable to register any new images for several tenths of a second. If another car was indicating to come across to your lane and you failed to see the signal as a result of gawping at a busty lady you could have a fatal car crash on your hands.


The most common road accidents and how to avoid them

Britain has an enviable standard of road safety. In 2011 there were on average 3.7 deaths per 100,000 people in the UK – that’s just 0.7 higher than Sweden, which has the safest roads in the world.

But, it’s still a problem.

According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA), the leading causes of fatal road crashes in the UK include:

  1. Speeding
  2. Drink-driving (Check out the penalties for drink driving here:
  3. Not wearing a seat belt
  4. Careless or aggressive driving
  5. Drivers who don’t look

Speeding includes going too fast for the conditions, whether or not it breaks the speed limit, and kills around 400 people a year, says ROSPA. Another 300 people per year die at the hands of ‘careless or reckless’ drivers.

A Department for Transport report released at the end of 2012 revealed that 42% of all crashes studied involved drivers simply ‘failing to look properly.’ It’s routinely the greatest single reason for an accident.

Furthermore, a government study of accident blackspots in 2010 found that the majority of crashes occurred when the roads were dry.

In fact, in two thirds of all fatal accidents, the driver involved was not even judged to have ‘lost control’ of their vehicle.

The main causes of accidents

We’ve written more on car accidents here: How Do Car Accidents Happen

The message emerging is that many drivers involved in accidents simply aren’t paying attention. Paying attention, along with wearing a seatbelt and remembering not to get blind drunk first, seems a relatively easy thing to remedy.

Sadly, some drivers have simply got too many texts to write before that happens, so the best thing you can do is drive defensively and understand the biggest risks:

  1. Near your house: a US study conducted by Progressive Insurance found that 52 percent of accidents happened within five miles of a driver’s home. The higher number of short trips than long ones is part of it; familiarity and lack of concentration the rest.
  2. At junctions: almost two thirds of cyclists and more than half the motorcyclists killed or seriously injured in the UK are hit by vehicles turning into their path at junctions.
  3. At the end of British Summer Time: in 2008, motoring insurer MoreThan revealed a regular five percent rise in claims over the two weeks either side of the clocks going forward.

If you need a lawyer because you’ve been in a motor vehicle accident, get in touch with AElegal:

Remember these golden rules:

  1. Leave a two-second gap to the car in front
  2. Don’t drive tired
  3. Leave your phone alone
  4. Never drink and drive
  5. Wear your seatbelt
  6. Think bike – if you only look for cars, you’ll only see cars
  7. Stick to the speed limits

All this will give you the best chance of spotting a problem, reacting to it in time and – should the worst happen – coming through it without adding to the World Health Organisation’s statistics.


How do accidents happen?

A study of more than 700,000 crashes in the UK has produced detailed evidence on the causes of road traffic accidents.

It’s enough to chill your blood on the warmest day. You’re driving along a familiar road on holiday or to work. But your progress is suddenly hampered by ominous signs; an ambulance screeches past and there’s an unexpected traffic jam.

You inch your way to the head of the queue and as you reach the crash scene it’s impossible not to gawp at the tangled metal. You know that within hours, a police notice board seeking witnesses to a fatal accident will appear.

Always though, two haunting questions remain: what went wrong – and how can you make sure it won’t be you next time?

Now, for the first time, a startling new report, Licensed to Skill, has broken down what happens in those mysterious “lost” moments leading to road accidents, analysing who is to blame, what sex or age they tend to be – and what they did wrong. Using data gathered by police and spanning 700,000 accidents from 2005-2009, the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) has analysed, in breathtaking detail, the anatomy of a road accident.

Unexpected findings emerged, not least the relative unimportance that speeding plays in road accidents that kill six people each day in the UK, leave 68 others seriously hurt and 535 with less serious injuries.

“It has been an eye-opener,” says project manager Neil Greig, of the IAM. “Not just in terms of what causes an accident but in terms of dispelling some of the popular myths. For instance, if you look at Government campaigns they seem to say that speed is the number one problem. But illegal speeding – when drivers exceed the posted limit – accounts for only 13.9 per cent of fatal accidents. A bigger cause [15.9 per cent] is going too fast for the conditions – entering a bend too quickly, for instance – when you might well be under the actual speed limit.”

But the biggest cause of road accidents in the UK today? The statistics are quite clear on this and it’s “driver error or reaction”. It’s listed by police as a factor in more than 65 per cent of fatal crashes and the heading covers a multitude of driving sins many of which you’re probably on first-name terms with. Topping the charge sheet is failing to look properly (the Smidsy factor – “Sorry mate, I didn’t see you’, relevant in 20.5 per cent of fatals involving driver error), followed by “loss of control” (34 per cent) which, says Greig, often means leaving yourself with “nowhere to go” after entering a bend or other situation, too quickly. Other errors include “poor turn or manoeuvre” (12 per cent) and “failed to judge other person’s path or speed” (11.6 per cent.).

Second biggest cause of fatal accidents, to blame for 31 per cent, is the “injudicious action”, an umbrella term for “travelled too fast for the conditions’ (15.9 per cent of those labelled injudicious), “exceeded speed limit” (13.9 per cent) or “disobeyed give-way or stop sign” (2.1 per cent)?

Third culprit in the daily gamble on who lives and who dies is “behaviour or inexperience” (28 per cent), which covers faults such as “careless, reckless or in a hurry” (17 per cent), “aggressive driving” (8.3 per cent) and “learner/inexperienced” (5.3 per cent).

The fourth main category is “impairment or distraction” (to blame for 19.6 per cent of fatal accidents) covering “alcohol” (a factor in 9.6 per cent of fatal accidents) and “distraction in vehicle” (2.6 per cent).

“What is just as telling though is the factors that, though they might be key in a small number of accidents, aren’t all that significant,” says Greig. “We see a lot of campaigning on issues such as diesel and deposits on the road but that only explains 0.8 per cent of fatal accidents, and being dazzled by headlamps, a factor in 0.4 per dent of fatalities.”

Next time you venture out in bad weather, you might like to reassure yourself that slippery roads only factor in 10.9 per cent of fatal crashes involving road problems, while bad road layouts are to blame in 3.2 per cent.

But you should watch out more carefully for pedestrians. A separate heading shows that “pedestrian only, casualty or injured” accidents account for more than 18 per cent of collisions, with (sound familiar?) 10 per cent of them “failing to look properly”.

Delve further into the report and a colossal range of possible causes of accidents, 77 in all, emerges, including vision affected by the sun, vegetation or spray from vehicles and scratched windscreens. Of those motorists judged by police to have been distracted, only 0.8 per cent were using a mobile phone and 0.4 per cent had defective eyesight.

Other reasons accounting for 6.1 per cent of fatal accidents include “stolen vehicle” (1.1 per cent), “emergency vehicle on call” (0.3 per cent) and “vehicle in course of crime” (0.4 per cent).

Vehicle defects are a factor in only 2.8 per cent of fatals, with tyres mostly to blame (1.5 per cent) followed by dodgy brakes (0.7 per cent).

The overriding message? It’s not your car or the “road conditions” that are most likely to kill you. It’s your own driving. Men are more often ‘careless, reckless or in a hurry’, or ‘travelling too fast for conditions’. Women are more likely to be ‘inexperienced’, but less likely to have been drinking.

Age is a factor. Older drivers more frequently fail to look properly while younger ones are more likely to be going too fast, either for the limit, or the conditions.

Time of day is important; between 7pm-7am ‘loss of control’ is the key factor while at other times, it’s the familiar ‘failed to look properly’. Motorists are more likely to be ‘distracted or impaired’ at weekends (17 per cent) than on weekdays (10 per cent).

“Drivers can learn a lot by reading this and if you take just one thing away from it,” says Greig, “it’s that paying a little more attention, taking that little bit more time to look properly, will save your life. Mostly, crashes aren’t about cars going dramatically out of control and up in smoke. It’s small errors suddenly having greater consequences. But if you are a good, trained driver, you can avoid becoming a statistic.” And you’ll get to that appointment on time, too.

If you’ve been involved in a Motor Vehicle Accident get in touch with the team at AELegal.

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