Death by HGV | Smith Bowyer Clarke

Expert team of Barristers and Solicitors with years of experience in providing advice and representation in Road Transport Law.

Death by HGV


Most HGV drivers don’t realise how close to a prison sentence they are merely by opening the door to their cab. A moment’s distraction whilst fiddling with a mobile phone, tachograph or radio could mean disaster for both the driver and others.  It is also not uncommon for an operator to face serious criminal charges – even if he wasn’t present at the death!


The headline cases at the moment are the mobile phone users, those who crush cyclists when turning left, and illegal immigrants who die in unventilated containers.


If a death does happen, a driver can expect to be prosecuted. This can happen even if it isn’t obviously his fault.


Below are some of the criminal charges you may face:





Mandatory Sentence: Life Imprisonment


This applies if the police think a driver intended to cause death or really serious injury.



  • If a driver deliberately drives his lorry at someone, killing them
  • If a car cuts up a truck and the driver loses his temper and deliberately rams another vehicle killing the occupants.




Maximum Sentence: Life Imprisonment


This is usually charged when the offence is not directly connected to the driving.



  • If an illegal immigrant dies a container where the driver knew that they were there.
  • If a poorly maintained vehicle kills someone
  • If an insecure load falls and kills

Operators can easily be charged with this offence if they fail in their maintenance or loading duties.



Causing Death by Dangerous Driving


Maximum Sentence:  14 years imprisonment


This offence is often charged when a person is killed as a result of dangerous driving. “Dangerous” means driving which falls far below the standard of a competent and careful driver and, it would be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving in that way would be dangerous.



  • Texting when driving
  • Driving on the wrong side of the road
  • Driving an HGV when you know the brakes are faulty

Remember: If an operator takes chances with his maintenance he can be charged with this offence alongside the driver. A good example of this is the Sowerby Bridge disaster where defective brakes killed six people.



Causing Death by Careless Driving


Maximum Sentence:  5 Years Imprisonment


“Careless” driving is driving which falls below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver.



  • A lorry wandering on to the hard shoulder during a momentary lapse of attention and hitting a car.


So What Should You Do?


Anyone charged with any of these offences is in serious trouble and needs proper legal advice from the moment that they get out of the cab.


Our barristers and solicitors have years of experience in the criminal courts. We can represent you every step of the way, from the police station to the trial itself. Smith Bowyer Clarke is a specialist road transport, HGV and PSV law firm. Get in touch to find out how we can help.


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