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The defence of Automatism in Road Traffic accident cases



The legal defence of Automatism is most commonly used in road traffic accident cases. This is where someone cannot be held responsible for their actions if they have no knowledge of the accident.

Automatism can arise where a person experiences a total loss of control through no fault of their own. The consequences of a total loss of control in road traffic accidents can be catastrophic and even fatal. Examples of what might constitute an automatism defence include an epileptic fit and a hypoglycaemic attack.

What is the UK law in relation to Automatism?

Currently, there is no scheme in the UK to compensate victims of genuine Automatism and so a person who is injured through no fault of their own has no recourse to be compensated for what are often serious injuries.

Drivers with certain medical conditions or disability including insulin-dependent diabetes, epilepsy, stroke and other neurological and mental health issues are required to inform the DVLA. The DVLA may ask for a report from a GP or relevant medical professional or arrange their own medical examination or a driving test.

Our client’s experience – a case study

Our client was driving his car on a single carriageway in Glasgow when suddenly and without warning, an oncoming car moved onto his side of the road. The other car hit parked cars and our client’s car was struck, resulting in him suffering injury. The insurance company representing the driver of the other car tried to rely on the defence of Automatism as the other driver had become unwell at the wheel of his vehicle and this caused the accident.

What should be done to examine if a defence of Automatism can be successfully used?

It is important that a careful examination of the sequence of events leading up to a road traffic accident is carried out. This investigation should include:

  • Review of the other driver’s medical history and the instruction of medical reports and/or recovery of medical records;
  • A report on the condition of the other driver and their fitness to drive;
  • Correspondence with the DVLA to ensure that the other driver was assessed as fit to drive and holds a current driving licence;
  • The condition of the other driver pre-accident and post-accident;
  • Any relevant witness evidence.

Following our client’s accident, witnesses provided information that the other driver’s passenger confirmed that the other driver was feeling unwell prior to the accident and had been taken a significant amount of GTN spray. The GTN spray was prescribed by the other driver’s doctor for chest pain associated with angina and resulted in the other driver becoming unwell behind the wheel of his vehicle and causing the accident. The guidelines for GTN spray recommend that if the user is feeling dizzy then they should not drive.

Recovery of all losses suffered by our client

Our specialist Personal Injury Road Traffic accident team were able to recover compensation for all losses suffered by our client. Immediately following the accident our client suffered neck and back pain. Our client suffered from sleep disturbance, anxiety and suffered from the physical effects of the accident.

Our Personal Injury specialist team were able to argue that the defence of Automatism was not able to be relied upon in this case given our client’s prior knowledge of his condition, his over-use of GTN spray caused the accident and we used witness evidence to strengthen our client’s case.

As a result, our client recovered compensation for all losses and injuries he suffered from the road traffic accident. Our specialist Personal Injury team instructed medical reports to show the extent of injuries our client suffered to show the extent of our client’s injuries and loss.

What did our Personal Injury Road Traffic Accident specialist team do for this client?

Our Personal Injury team are experienced in representing people who suffer injuries in road traffic accidents and their experience of Road Traffic Law ensured that the defence of Automatism could not be used in this case. We have extensive experience of supporting those injuries in road traffic accidents and their families and achieving results and justice.

Contact our personal injury solicitors

Our solicitors can help you secure the justice and compensation you deserve. Get in touch now for a free chat about your claim.

The small print: This blog is for information purposes only and should not be construed in any way as providing legal advice.


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Get in touch

Call us for free on 0330 159 5555 or complete our online form below to submit your enquiry or arrange a call back.