Thursfields acts for insurer against car passenger injured whilst involved in illegal acts

The Court of Appeal has emphatically stated that a car passenger who received serious brain injuries cannot recover damages from the driver who was to blame.

Jason Craig, who was aged 26 at the time of the accident, was travelling as a rear seat passenger in a Vauxhall Astra when the driver of that car lost control. The car was at the time trying to evade a Police car. Jason, who was an unemployed builder, suffered a serious head injury. It was accepted that he would never work again nor be capable of independent living.

When the matter was first before the court in Leeds the judge was satisfied that the four men in the car had been dealing in drugs. Two of the passengers had subsequently received convictions for drug dealing, and one was a known drug dealer. Three bags of cannabis were found in or near the car. The four men (who were all unemployed) had over £350 in cash between them which the judge suggested was the proceeds of their drug dealing that day. He found that because the men were engaged on an illegal act at the time of the accident, and were trying to evade an arrest he was unable to recover compensation from the driver’s insurers. The Court of Appeal agreed with that view and dismissed the appeal that had been lodged.

Maurice Nichols, our insurance specialist, who conducted the case on behalf of the insurance company said “While at first sight this seems a harsh way to treat a young man who has suffered life changing injuries, had he been allowed compensation at the expense of the driver’s insurers it would have been paid for ultimately by the motoring public and responsible law abiding people in raised premiums, and that would be unfair and morally wrong in these circumstances”. Although this case related to a personal injury claim, the principles involved would apply equally to numerous other scenarios.

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