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Liability in Motor Insurance Claims

Mar 4, 2022

What is motor insurance liability?

The Cambridge Dictionary defines liability as ‘the fact that someone is legally responsible for something’

When it comes to motor insurance, if you are involved in an accident or incident, liability effectively means determining who was ‘at fault’ for the accident.

If you are found to be ‘at fault’ in an accident, then your insurer will typically pay the costs relating to any insurance claim.

How is motor insurance liability attributed?

In the event of a motor insurance accident, then an investigation will take place. Depending on the severity, this may involve the police. Or it may be carried out by the insurers – this can include statements from drivers, photos, witnesses, assessing damage to the vehicles etc. Any information which will make it possible to work out a timeline of events and therefore how the accident occurred.

This information will then be used to try and attribute liability for the accident.

Attributing liability in an accident is vital as it then determines which motor insurance company will cover the costs of the claim.

If there is a dispute over liability, then legal proceedings may be required.

Complexities in defining liability

Attributing liability can be difficult in motor insurance accidents. Particularly if there are several vehicles or people involved in the accident.

This can be impacted by differing statements from drivers, unclear evidence or whether there even is clear cut liability for the accident for example.

Liability outcomes

As mentioned above, it may not always be clear cut when it comes to liability in a motor insurance claim. In cases where there are disputes about liability, often the claim will go to court, and it will be for a judge to determine the liability outcomes.

There can be a number of liability outcomes, such as

Successful liability claims

Where the claimant successfully provides enough evidence for liability to be attributed to the defendant.

Failed liability claims

Where a claim is bought but the claimant fails to provide enough evidence for liability to be attributed to the defendant.

Contributory liability

Two parties can have a contributory role in an accident for example two parties both played a role in the accident happening. This can lead to liability be apportioned between the two parties. E.g., a 70%/30% split. Or can see a contributory value placed on the claim which can see the claim value reduced by a set amount e.g., 10% or 50% etc.

Read this piece from DAC Beachcroft, our legal partners, who look at some key motor liability cases from 2021, and their outcomes.

What should you do in the event of a motor insurance accident?

If you are involved in a motor accident, either yourself, or one of your drivers if you run a fleet of vehicles, then it is vital that you contact your insurer as soon as possible. Preferable at the roadside at the time of the incident.

In the event of an accident, it is essential to obtain as much information at the earliest opportunity to cut down on inflated repair costs, disputes on liability and fraudulent claims. Obtaining as much information and evidence at the time of the accident can increase the chance of being able to successfully defend a claim.

In the event of an accident, it is advisable to:

  • take photographs of vehicles positions on the road
  • take at least 1 photograph of the registration of the third-party vehicle
  • take at least 1 photograph of any damage to your vehicle
  • take at least 2 photographs of the third parties damage (either vehicle or building/property)
  • take photographs of all the front and rear panels of the third-party vehicle
  • anything else that you feel relevant to the accident
  • details (name, address, telephone number) of any witnesses.

For more information, do take a look at our motor claims pack and claims information pages.

What to do if you are involved in a serious Road Traffic Accident (RTA)

Being involved in a serious or fatal road traffic collision can be devastating, but it can also carry significant penalties and strict sentencing guidelines if drivers are convicted of:

  • causing death by dangerous driving – a maximum prison sentence of 14 years (soon to be increased to life)
  • causing death by careless driving – a maximum prison sentence of 5 years

Therefore, it is vital that if you or one of your drivers are involved in a fatal accident, that you know what is likely to happen

  • with regards to the investigation in to how the accident happened
  • what is likely to happen to them as the involved driver and how to respond.

Watch our video on what to do if you are involved in a serious road traffic accident or read our recent blog on this topic.

If you hold a motor insurance policy, or a commercial motor fleet policy with Anthony Jones, you can contact our claims team on 020 8290 9085 or email us at claims@anthonyjones.com

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020 8290 4560

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