Posted February. 27, 2009 08:58,
The Constitutional Court yesterday ruled that an insured driver can face criminal prosecution if he or she seriously injures others in a car accident.
The court ruled unconstitutional the clause of the Special Act on Car Accidents that protected an insured driver from conviction if he or she was not driving under the influence of alcohol or was in a hit-and-run accident.
In the 7-2 decision, the court upheld an appeal against Article 4, Section 1 of the act that bans prosecution of a driver who caused a serious car accident simply because he or she was insured.
The ruling immediately rendered the article null and void. Thus, a driver who commits serious damage to someone else in a car accident due to a professional or a personal mistake will face criminal punishment.
Though there are multiple options in punishment such as formal, informal and suspended prosecution depending on the cause of injuries and the severity of the mistake, giving immunity to an insured driver is against the Constitution because this is overprotection of basic rights, the court said.
Korea has an extraordinarily higher rate of car accidents than other (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries, and such an immunity case is rare to find. (The immunity rule) tends to make drivers negligent in safe driving or leave what happens after the accident to insurance companies.
The article said that even if someone is seriously injured in a car accident due to a drivers professional or serious mistake, prosecutors cannot charge the driver if the mistake did not fall under one or more of 12 categories, including hit-and-run, driving under the influence and speeding.
When the act will be revised is unknown, but the ruling will require that related rules be soon revised, the Justice Ministry said. As the standard of serious injury is a concept defined by the Criminal Code, it will be determined by individual case, it said.