A normal morning, a normal delivery. Until it wasn’t.
In most situations, people are often forgiven for things said in the heat in the moment. But, in the case of a road traffic accident, the point where you are most vulnerable – in shock, confused as to what has happened – those heat of the moment, unfiltered comments can be written down, and later used against you in a court of law.
For John Smith* and his employer, Truck Transport Ltd*, comments made whilst he was shocked and confused lead to a prison sentence, a driving ban and a £250,000 fine for his employer.
Had John had the legal support he needed in the crucial golden minutes directly after the incident, the outcome could have been very different.
Facts about the case
- John was driving an articulated large goods vehicle, making a delivery of building materials within a busy urban area of London. The weather was fine and dry with good visibility.
- The nearside camera and sensors on the vehicle were intermittently not functioning correctly.
- John needed to turn left from a major through route into a side road. Both the main road and the side road had footpaths. The main road had a dedicated cycle path.
- A cyclist was also travelling in a direction parallel to John’s vehicle.
- John had seen the cyclist before reaching the junction.
- As John approached the junction, he turned on the left indicator, which triggered an audible warning to road users that he was turning.
- As John began to turn left, the cyclist crossed the junction in front of John’s vehicle.
At this point John could not see the cyclist. At this point John hit the cyclist, resulting in the cyclist’s death.
What John said in the golden minutes
“I didn’t sleep well last night…”
“My wife hasn’t been well... I’ve been expecting her to call”
“There was an issue with my truck… the company knew about it”
In just a few minutes, in shock with no immediate legal advice, John had made what he believed to be innocent comments. He just wanted to help.
Judgement of John
- Crossing the junction, the cyclist would not have been within John’s direct field of vision, nor the nearside mirrors.
- John would not have been required to use his close proximity mirrors, nor his CCTV monitor in these circumstances.
- At no time as the cyclist entered the junction, did they appear to look in the vehicle’s direction, until immediately before the collision.
But… John admitted he was tired, distracted and driving a vehicle which had a known issue with its camera and sensors
John was found guilty of causing death by careless driving. He was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment and disqualified from driving for 2 years, after which an extended retest was mandated.
Judgement of John’s employer
John’s employer knew John was tired and stressed on the day of the collision;
John’s employer did not have a written fatigue policy in place;
John’s employer knew that the nearside camera and sensors were intermittently not functioning correctly;
John’s employer did not always follow through with checking the vehicle check sheets and did not always conduct repairs immediately;
John’s employer did not have a mobile phone policy that had been trained out to the drivers.
The company was convicted of breaches of both Sections 2 and 3 of the HSAWA. The judge found they had a high degree of blame as they failed to put in place standard industry measures.
Their turnover was ~£5M placing them in the small company bracket. Given the level of harm caused and the size of the company, the company was fined £250,000.
With Right Protect it could have been different.
If John’s employer had access to Right Protect, all their drivers would have been able to access immediate legal support. After calling the emergency services, John could have called a dedicated number to get expert legal advice, which may have prevented him from incriminating himself and his employer in the golden minutes following the incident.
Cases are won and lost at the roadside. Give your business the best chance of winning by adding Right Protect to your fuel card account.
Jen GreenJen has extensive experience across a range of regulated industries. Her research on the monthly market movements for oil and how they will impact prices at the pump has been featured in numerous publications, including the Transport Operator and Fuel Oil News.