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Do you know the difference?

The differences between causing death by careless driving and causing death by dangerous driving seem quite narrow to Joe Bloggs on the street, but what are the actual differences between the two criminal offences? Put simply, the latter is a more serious crime and therefore, carries a greater sentence if convicted.

Ross WaddellWhy would a personal injury lawyer be interested in driving offences? Well, a criminal conviction can go a long way to establishing liability in a criminal case. That is actually not unique to road traffic cases but can apply equally in other personal injury cases. It is natural therefore for us to keep an eye on ongoing criminal prosecutions in your case.

Both offences have featured regularly in the Scottish courts over the last year and have been especially topical since the Glasgow bin lorry crash and the subsequent decision not to prosecute the driver. Having sat through a criminal trial earlier this year myself, they can be very emotionally-charged and tough for the victim’s families and all those involved and occasionally emotion can get in the way of the logical verdict.

Occasionally, the line between the offences can be quite narrow. Both offences judge the offending driver against the standard of that of a “competent and careful” driver. The differences comes insofar as a careless driver need only fall below the standard of a competent and careful driver, whilst a dangerous driver needs to fall far below the standard that would be expected of a competent and careful driver. Having spoken with a number of criminal law practitioners over the course of the last year, they generally consider causing death by dangerous driving to be trickier to prove and therefore more regularly prosecute or defend cases involving causing death by careless driving.

In terms of sentencing, the recent case of HMA v Steven Bennie in which the accused pled guilty to causing death by dangerous driving and was imprisoned for 7 years and 6 months contrasts markedly with the case of HMA v Graeme McLaughlin in which the accused pled guilty to causing death by careless driving and was sentenced to a Community Payback Order and disqualification from driving for a period of four years. Both incidents resulted in the death of another person, yet the sentences are polar opposites, highlighting the differences between the two offences. Ultimately, causing death by dangerous driving can lead to a period of imprisonment of up to 14 years while causing death by careless driving can lead to a maximum of 5 years imprisonment provided that the accused was not under the influence of drink or drugs at the time.

If you would like more information on Thompsons road traffic accident claims click here or  talk to Thompsons on 0800 0891 331.

Blog by Ross Waddell

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