Can motor insurers be liable for the deliberate criminal acts of drivers?

Police Car with lights on

Many practioners may be surprised to hear that insurers cannot, as a matter of course, refuse to indemnify third party victims of the deliberate criminal acts of their insured. The issue has recently been considered by the Queen’s Bench Division in two equally shocking but very different factual scenarios. Both cases turned on whether the damage arose from ‘use of the vehicle’:- 

In Bristol Alliance Ltd Partnership v Williams [2011] EWHC 1657 (QB), Mr Williams drove his vehicle into the window display of a House of Fraser store. He caused the damage deliberately with the intention to commit suicide. The property insurer Bristol Alliance paid the cost of the damage and then went after Williams in an attempt to recover their outlay from his Road Traffic Insurers.

The RTA insurer argued that they did not require to indemnify Williams as deliberate damage was not a liability covered by the insurance policy. It was held that in order to comply with s. 145 of the Road Traffic Act, which required a policy to cover any liability which might be incurred as a result of ‘use of the vehicle’, the policy had to be read to include liability against an innocent third party arising out of a deliberate act. Bristol Alliance succeeded in their subrogated claim against the Road Traffic insurers. 

However, a different result was reached in the case of Axn and others v Warboys and another [2012] EWHC 1730 (QB). The Claimants in this case were victims of sexual offences committed by the First Defendant, who was a taxi driver. The Second Defendant was his insurer. The claimant argued that the insurer was liable for injuries they sustained at the hands of the taxi driver. The Court held that since the injuries resulted not from the taxi driver’s use of the cab but rather as part of a deliberate criminal enterprise, they did not 'arise out of the use of the vehicle on a road or public place' in terms of RTA 1988 s.145(3)(a)). There was not a sufficient causal link between the claimant’s injuries and the use of the vehicle. This case can be distinguished from Bristol  on the basis that the injuries were caused by conduct extraneous to criminal driving such as poisoing and carrying out sexual assaults.

What our clients say about us

We put our clients at the centre of everything we do and are committed to providing the very best service. The hundreds of five star reviews we have received on Trustpilot is a reflection of this approach.

  • 5 stars
    Car accident, where I was non liable but suffered ...
    Michael -
  • 5 stars
    Tanya Kaur was my solicitor that dealt with my cla...
    James Hughes -
  • 5 stars
    Laura Wilson was the solicitor for me in regards t...
    Iain -
  • 5 stars
    First class service from Sarah in the Inverness of...
    R M -
  • 5 stars
    After my car accident in March I contacted Digby B...
    Mrs Stewart -
  • 5 stars
    Following injuries sustained in a car accident, I ...
    AP -
  • 5 stars
    Dealt with David Henderson who was superb. He was ...
    Stuart Walton -
  • 5 stars
    I had my two front teeth broken by ceral product a...
    Michael Oconnell -
  • 5 stars
    I suffered both physical and mental trauma when I ...
    Kathryn Collyer -
  • 5 stars
    Following a slightly ‘tricky’ redundancy I decided...
    Susan Todd -
  • 5 stars
    many thanks for your help and the swift outcome, i...
    Ricky -
  • 5 stars
    My experience from start to finish was brilliant ....
    Kerry dickson -
Woman getting legal advice from solicitor

Thinking of making a claim?

Digby Brown's highly trained and experienced team will give you all the support you need.

Piggby bank with money going into it

How your case is funded

Don't be worried about the cost of legal advice. We will fully explain how your claim will be funded.

Hands in the air to ask a questions

Frequently asked questions

Digby Brown are here to help. Here are some answers to some of your frequently asked questions.


0333 200 5926

Monday to Friday: 8am - 7pm 

Saturday and Sunday: 12pm - 4pm

(Please note, local rate, even from mobile)

Email enquiry form

Complete our enquiry form and we will strive to reply within 24 hours

Follow us