At the forthcoming SNP conference in Perth this month, delegates will debate the presumed (or stricter) liability proposals of the Road Share campaign, a measure which would greatly simplify the compensation process for pedestrians and cyclists injured in collisions with motor vehicles.
Under presumed liability, compensation would be payable by the driver’s insurance company to the injured party unless the driver was able to prove fault. For those under 14, over 70, or with disabilities, we also propose that liability for damages would be “strict” ie it would rest with the driver.
Shifting the burden of proof in this way makes a lot of sense. For example, some years ago, an acquaintance of mine, who happens to be visually impaired, was struck by a car as he used a pedestrian crossing with his guide dog. Should he really have to establish that the driver was at fault before he is awarded compensation? Is it fair that, had he been killed, his family would have to bear the burden of proving fault against the driver before they could recover a penny in damages from his or her insurance company?
The Scottish Government remain unconvinced at present about the role presumed liability has to play, citing a lack of hard evidence of reduced accident levels in other countries which have adopted strict liability regimes.
However we know from the experience of nations across Europe that shifting the burden of proof onto the motorist does help foster a more considerate attitude to vulnerable road users. This can only be helpful in reducing accidents, and pedestrians and cyclists who have been injured would also benefit from fairer and swifter access to compensation.
The French Federation of Insurance Companies is a strong supporter of stricter liability regimes as vulnerable road users are compensated quickly without going to court and thus costs are significantly reduced.
Post referendum, many people are buzzing with awareness of social justice issues. If you agree that we could do more for pedestrians and cyclists, why not get in touch with your local SNP elected representative using writetothem.com to ask how they’ll be voting?
• Cllr Jim Orr is a member of the Road Share Steering Group (@roadshare)