Contact car crash lawyer Alistair Haskett on 0800 ROAD LEGAL (0800 762353)
Car Crash Lawyer Help:
- Specialist Car Crash Lawyers
- Penalties for Serious Crashes
- Types of Driving Fault
- Defences to Serious Crashes
- Police can Delay Charging Drivers
- Obligations after a Car Crash
- Preserving Car Crash Evidence
Specialist Car Crash Lawyers
ROAD LEGAL ® are specialist car crash lawyers. We can help with any injury or fatality crashes involving cars, trucks and motorbikes, including:
- Careless driving causing injury or death.
- Aggravated careless driving causing injury or death (speeding or driving manner).
- Careless driving causing injury or death while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Boy racer offences causing injury or death.
- Dangerous driving causing injury or death.
- Reckless driving causing injury or death.
- Drink driving or excess breath or blood alcohol causing injury or death.
- Driving with evidence of a controlled or qualifying drug causing injury or death.
- Driving while incapable from the influence of alcohol or drugs causing injury or death.
- Vehicular or motor manslaughter.
Legal advice about a serious crash is important. These accidents usually involve serious human, emotional and financial costs which understandably take a huge toll. That can place you in a vulnerable position to deal appropriately with possible legal consequences. This is where early legal advice can help to protect your position in respect of the possibility of being charged with a serious criminal offence.
Call Alistair on 0800 ROAD LEGAL (0800 762353) to discuss your situation. It is often possible to avoid being charged or to defend or minimise criminal charges.
Alistair is an expert traffic lawyer and has assisted clients charged with drink driving causing injury and death; drugged driving causing injury and death; careless driving causing injury and death; dangerous driving causing injury and death; reckless driving causing death; and, motor manslaughter. Alistair holds qualifications in forensic science, has significant knowledge on crash scene investigation, and has years of practical experience in mechanics, racing motorbikes and cars, and driving trucks – all of which can assist in working out how to best manage or defend these types of charges.
Types of driver fault and proof
There are different types of driving fault involved in these types of offences, which Police must prove beyond reasonable doubt. That is a high standard of proof.
Don’t assume you are at fault because the Police say so. Don’t admit liability to the offence charged simply because you feel you were at fault. Get legal advice first.
It is not uncommon for police to do a poor job or to make mistakes when investigating serious crashes. See this article about a tragic accident, in which after we presented the defence at trial the victim's family very graciously said we had "diligently" done an "amazing job" explaining what might have caused the crash and had shown how police "didn't do their damned job".
It is also not uncommon for police to overcharge defendants. There is a big difference in the type of driving that applies to the charges of motor manslaughter, drink drive, reckless, dangerous or careless driving causing injury or death. There can also be a big difference in the penalty.
It may be that you are not liable. The law does not require perfection. The law recognises that accidents happen. We all get caught out by unexpected circumstances. Sometimes the other driver is at fault. Sometimes accidents are faultless. Sometimes fault just can’t be proven.
Even if you were at fault that does not mean a conviction will follow. In 2009 there were 10,106 casualty crashes where driver fault was identified but less than 13% of those resulted in convictions.
Defences involving causation, mechanical failure, road conditions
Driver fault aside, there may also be other factors that the prosecution needs to prove or disprove. This can include that the driving caused death or injury rather than other causes, the victim’s conduct or other intervening acts. It can also include the prosecution needing to prove that mechanical failure or road conditions were not the cause of the accident.
It is possible to successfully defend these charges even when the prosecution case might seem strong to you. In one example from our results page a taxi driver was charged with dangerous driving causing injury, drink driving causing injury and failing to stop to ascertain injury. The prosecution case was that the defendant drank half a bottle of whiskey, drove at high speed over 2 traffic islands, took out 2 road signs, smashed a curb, broke a power pole in half, uprooted and snapped a tree in half, and then smashed through a block wall. The prosecution produced photos of this damage and had a crash scene expert give evidence. The defence cross-examination of the police witnesses established significant doubt about the police theory of the accident. By the end of the day the defendant was found not guilty on all charges, without needing to give evidence.
Police can charge drivers well after a car crash
If you are involved in a serious crash it may be important to get legal advice even if you have not been charged. Police are likely to investigate the crash and often take considerable time to arrive at their theory of how an accident happened. There is no time limit for charging a driver with most vehicular injury and death offences.
Often the police will be examining the vehicles, inspecting the road, and talking to the other driver or witnesses without you knowing. An injured person or other driver will often accuse you of causing the accident, and they can put a lot of pressure on police to bring criminal charges in order for them to get reparation or financial compensation.
Penalties for Injury or Death Car Crash Offences
Be very careful about relying on information from the internet. Some websites contain incorrect or misleading information. For example, our review of the NZTA website in 2015 revealed information on it that is plainly wrong and misleading.
Penalties in vehicular injury and death cases can be very serious:
- Motor manslaughter has a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
- Reckless or dangerous driving causing death has a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment or a $20,000.00 fine.
- Reckless or dangerous driving causing injury has a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment or a $20,000.00 fine.
- Drink and drug driving offences causing death or injury have the same 10 and 5 year maximum penalties, respectively.
- Boy racer offences causing death or injury also have the same 10 and 5 year maximum penalties, respectively.
- Careless driving causing death or injury while under the influence of alcohol or controlled or qualifying drugs has a maximum penalty of 3 years imprisonment or a $10,000 fine.
- Aggravated careless driving causing injury or death has the same 3 year maximum penalty.
- Disqualification from driving is mandatory if you are convicted of these type of offences and in certain circumstances your car can be permanently confiscated.
What are a driver’s obligations after a car crash?
Motorists have numerous different obligations after an accident. The obligations depend on the type of accident, so are not fully explained here. Ideally you should consider getting legal advice before talking to Police about the crash or before completing an insurance claim – but note:
- A driver involved in any accident must, if required by an enforcement officer or any other person involved in the accident, give the officer or other person the name and address of the driver and owner of the vehicle and its registration;
- If the accident involves an injury to or death of a person, the driver must also report the accident (but nothing more) in person at the nearest Police station or to an enforcement officer as soon as reasonably practicable, and in any case not later than 24 hours after the time of the accident – unless the driver has been arrested or detained as a result of the accident or the driver is incapable of meeting this reporting requirement by reason of injuries sustained by him or her in the accident; and
- There are other reporting obligations if the accident merely involves damage to property.
Preserving crash site and mechanical evidence
It could also be important to take proactive steps after a serious crash to obtain defence evidence or to be able to challenge the police theory of an accident, such as:
- Preserving evidence by taking photographs of the cars and the crash scene, measuring distances, noting skid or gouge marks, recording the resting place of debris, and securing speed and crash data stored in many vehicles’ ECUs. It may be important to do this quickly so that evidence is not lost or destroyed. However, it should be done in a manner that does not obstruct lawful investigations by the Police.
- Engaging an independent crash investigator to assess the evidence at the crash site and the evidence collected by Police. This is ideally done soon after the accident but can often still be done weeks or even months after a crash. Do not assume that the Police have investigated the crash scene or vehicles, or that they have done it correctly.
- In some cases it may even be advisable to get your car back from the towing company or panelbeater and to have an expert investigate it. If the Police have seized your car it is possible to have an independent investigator look at it.