Passengers are not in control of the vehicle they occupy and so cannot be guilty of negligence in terms of causing the accident. They rely on their driver and other road users to drive safely. This means that whenever a passenger is injured in an accident they will almost always have a claim, either against their own driver or against the other party involved, depending on who caused the accident. Because motor insurance is compulsory there will usually be an insurer to meet the claim.
Wearing a seat belt – will this affect a claim for compensation?
The only negligence issue for passengers relates to use of a seat belt. With a few limited exceptions, all vehicles are fitted with seat belts and they are required by law to be used. If a passenger is injured in an accident whilst they were not wearing a seat belt then they are likely to have their compensation reduced by a percentage to reflect that ‘contributory negligence’. The amount of the deduction will be a percentage of the total and that percentage will depend on the injuries suffered: if the medical expert(s) concludes that the injuries would have been avoided altogether by the wearing of a seat belt then the deduction will usually be 25%, but if the expert evidence is that there would still have been some injury even if a seat belt were worn then the deduction should only be 15%.
In many cases it can be shown that there was likely to have been some injury in any event, perhaps because the speed of the collision was such that there would have been some injury from the seat belt itself, and so the deduction there should be limited to 15%.
Bus Passenger Claims
Bus drivers owe a statutory duty to protect their passengers, especially the elderly and infirm, from avoidable injury.
Bus accidents often occur when passengers are thrown around in a bus that is driven away from a bus stop before they are seated or otherwise driven too fast or erratically. It is common in these situations for another vehicle to be involved; perhaps a car has overtaken the bus and ‘cut it up’ forcing the bus driver to brake sharply.
The bus drove away before I sat down – can I make a claim for injury?
Where it is alleged that the driver drove away before the claimant was able to seat themselves, the key consideration will be the claimant themselves. Case law has established that the driver owes a duty to the elderly or infirm to give them a reasonable opportunity to be seated before setting off, but for other passengers the competing imperative of avoiding unnecessary delays and keeping the service running smoothly dictates that the bus driver should not wait for everyone to be seated before driving off. So if the passenger is an elderly man with a walking stick the driver should allow them time to be properly seated before moving off, and if he fails to do so and the man falls and sustains injury then there is likely to be a successful claim against the bus company.
A recent development for London buses is the standard fitting of onboard CCTV cameras. These cameras typically show one second lapse images of the road ahead and of the inside of the bus, and are of great help in understanding how and why the accident happened. The cameras are of course fitted for the benefit of the bus company, and they will often produce the footage in support of a denial of liability, but this material is disclosable too when the images support the injured person’s case, and so can comprise the crucial evidence needed for the claim to succeed.
So the CCTV should show the involvement of any third party vehicle and in the case of passengers thrown around in a collision the internal facing camera should actually show the injuries being sustained.
In these cases it is very important to note details of witnesses, and the bus number, the bus driver and operator.
If there was a third party vehicle involved it may have driven off from the scene, which it often will because there may not have been a collision and unbeknown to the driver of that vehicle a passenger was injured when the bus performed an emergency braking manoeuvre. In these cases a claim will have to be made to the Motor Insurers Bureau. See the section on Hit and Run cases for more details.
Rear end shunt
These are common cases where one vehicle fails to brake and collides with the back of the vehicle in front. Almost always liability will rest with the driver of the vehicle behind, because they failed to allow sufficient distance from the vehicle in front and/or failed to pay attention or failed to stop or slow in time or at all.
Passengers commonly suffer whiplash injuries in rear end shunt accidents.
If you, as a passenger, were injured in an accident you may be eligible to make a claim for compensation. Contact our specialist personal injury solicitors for more advice.
What you should do next?
On contacting us you will speak in confidence to a member of our personal injury team who will ask you specific details about your injury including where and when it took place. It is helpful to the claims process if you can provide us with as much information as possible, including any relevant pictures of the injury, pictures of where the injury took place, details of any witnesses and reports of any medical treatment you had as a result of the injury.
We will then be able to advise you on whether or not you can make a claim for compensation.