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Civil Law Prosecutions – A risk to your business?

14 September 2023

  • In civil cases, the company is automatically guilty at the start of proceedings

  • Currently there is no limit to the level of compensation that can be claimed

  • Fleet Managers must have a good understanding of the company’s legal obligations

When it comes to looking after employees driving on company business, most fleet managers have an understanding of the Duty of Care requirements that need to be in place to remain compliant with the law and best practice.

However there is an area of law that’s not often discussed – and it can have an enormous impact on a business’s bottom line. This is Civil Law.

Claims made under Civil Law are normally seeking financial compensation following an incident in which someone has been injured (mentally or physically) or even killed.

How does this affect a company with a fleet of vehicles and drivers?

Imagine the scenario where one of your company drivers has a crash and through the course of the investigation it comes to light that a driving licence check hasn’t been completed, and the driver turns out to be disqualified.

If the third party realises that they’ve been hit by a disqualified driver, a civil case can be raised to seek compensation for injury, loss of earnings, damage to vehicles or equipment.  This can also significantly impact the company’s insurance premiums, as they’ve employed a high risk driver.

In civil cases, the company is automatically guilty at the start of proceedings, and it’s up to them to prove their innocence by providing evidence that they have taken all reasonable measures to prevent the incident occurring.

Currently there is no limit to the level of compensation that can be claimed, and both the driver and the company may have to pay compensation. The impact on an SME might be crippling, to the point they could have to cease trading.

Companies operating liveried vehicles are more prone to claims, as they are easy to identify. Claimants may see these organisations as a potential ‘cash cow’ for compensation.

Another example: two employees are travelling together, heading to a business meeting. The driver is travelling too close to the vehicle ahead, resulting in a rear end collision, in which the passenger is injured.

The driver will no doubt receive a fine and points on their licence. However, if the driver has not received appropriate training, the company could also be held accountable under civil law, if the passenger claims damages for a breach of Duty of Care. This is because both the driver and the company are responsible for the safe transportation of the passenger.

What does this mean for fleet managers?

Fleet managers must have a good understanding of the company’s legal obligations and how it affects the employees.

These obligations may be grouped as follows:

  • Safe drivers
  • Safe site
  • Safe vehicles

For the driver, some suitable measures to reduce the risk of civil claims may include:

  • Risk assessing the driver’s tasks
  • Appropriate arrangements for driving licence checks
  • Follow-on training for drivers that pose a higher risk – for instance due to mileage, the time of day they drive, or the type of roads they frequently use

Driver Hire Training can help

Our IOSH Managing Safely courses cover Civil Law and the potential impact it has on fleet management. As part of the training, participants are asked to complete real risk assessments, relating to their own business. They can use these to help mitigate the risk in their own fleets.

We also offer competitively priced Driver Risk Management services, including licence checking, in-vehicle assessments/training, risk awareness workshops and e-learning. All of these can help fleet managers to adopt all necessary measures to prevent large civil compensation claims crippling their bottom line.

If you are unsure about your companies obligations.

Don’t hesitate to contact our team today:

Call us on 0333 307 9933
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