A LANDMARK High Court ruling has prompted a warning to fleet decision-makers that they face prosecution as the Health and Safety Executive cracks down on at-work accidents.
The court ruled that a Manchester garage was to blame for a crash that left a man dead and a woman in a wheelchair.
It heard that a Ford Transit van in which the two people were travelling had been booked into the garage for a service two days before the accident. Following the accident it was found the van had a defective brake which was almost certainly in that state at the time of the service.
As a result, the garage was fully liable to compensate the van's owner, who survived the road accident, for her injuries.
Fleet News columnist David Faithful, a solicitor and partner in insurance solicitors Amery-Parks and a non-executive director of risk management company Risk Answers, said: 'For the first time a business that has been working on a vehicle has been successfully prosecuted on the principle of who touched the vehicle last.'
When investigating road accidents the police ask three questions: the purpose of the journey, the condition of the vehicle and the condition of the driver.
Faithful added: 'In assessing the condition of a vehicle, its maintenance history is crucial.
'Police accident investigators will be searching to discover if any work was actually carried out on the vehicle, or should have been carried out on the vehicle, immediately prior to the accident.
'The onus is on dealers, fast-fit companies, bodyshops, contract hire and leasing companies and fleet management companies to identify problems to the vehicle owner and for the owner to sanction the work to be carried out.'
Faithful said that if a vehicle owner refuses to have the work carried out – perhaps because of financial constraints or a leased vehicle is near the end of a contract – the repairer should ask the individual to sign a form to the effect that the problem was highlighted but the opportunity to have the work undertaken was refused.