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Gemma Racz, Fee Earner at Minster Law, shares some important advice around disclosing medical conditions to the DVLA.

Did you know that in 2015 an estimated 3.4 million drivers in England and Wales failed to disclose relevant medical conditions to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA)?

Not having the freedom to drive is a scary thought.

When I was told I had a DVLA notifiable condition by my consultants; I was scared I would be unable to drive and my licence would be revoked: questioning how would I get to work, how would this affect my lifestyle, visiting friends and family and limiting me on what I can and can’t do.

If I don’t disclose a medical condition, will it affect my car insurance?

A claim on your car insurance could be invalidated if you have an undisclosed notifiable medical condition or your eyesight doesn’t meet the legal minimum requirement. Each claim is unique, but if you have a medical condition then check with DVLA – hiding it isn’t worth the risk.

You must tell DVLA if you have a driving licence and:

  • you develop a ‘notifiable’ medical condition or disability

(your doctor or consultant should notify you if you have a DVLA notifiable condition however you are able to check this online on the DVLA website).

  • a condition or disability has got worse since you got your licence

Notifiable conditions are anything that could affect your ability to drive safely. They can include:

The full list of notifiable conditions can be located via the following link: https://www.gov.uk/health-conditions-and-driving/find-condition-a-to-z

Why should I disclose a medical condition for driving?

Most people fail to disclose a medical condition because they believe it has no impact on their driving. However, some medical conditions do affect your ability to drive safely. DVLA (DVA in Northern Ireland) will assess your medical condition or disability to determine whether you can continue to drive.

The most common types of medical conditions suffered by drivers in England and Wales are:

  • Heart conditions
  • Stroke or mini stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Physical disability
  • Brain condition or severe head injury
  • Visual impairment
  • Epilepsy

All these could affect your driving, so it’s best to double check with DVLA.

In 2017, the DVLA confirmed that 90% of the drivers that notified the DVLA of a medical condition kept their entitlement to drive.

What’s the process of declaring a medical condition to DVLA?

You can complete a form online or you can call the DVLA, and they can send you the relevant form to complete via post.

Once you’ve disclosed your medical condition and sent off the form to DVLA, they’ll usually make a decision and respond within six to eight weeks.

DVLA might contact your doctor to check your medication and their medical opinion as to whether medically you are safe to drive, they may arrange a medical examination or ask you to take a driving test.

Whether you could carry on driving depends on if you surrendered your licence voluntarily or if your doctor revoked your licence for medical reasons.

If you surrendered your licence voluntarily, but your doctor has deemed you fit to be behind the wheel, then you should be fine to drive.

Whilst the DVLA process your application and your doctor has deemed you fit to drive, you are able to continue driving until the DVLA decision has been made.

How does DVLA decide what to do with my licence?

DVLA will assess your medical condition or disability and consider the options.

They’ll see if you need a new driving licence, whether you need a shorter licence (that will be reviewed in one, two, three or five years), if you need to adapt your car, or if you have to stop driving.

DVLA won’t take your licence away without giving you a medical reason. It doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll take it forever, and they’ll let you know when you can reapply for your licence. There’s also potential to appeal against the decision.

As outlined most people with a notifiable condition kept their entitlement to drive.

My doctors confirmed I was able to continue driving, as I was deemed safe to drive, until the formal outcome had been decided. The DVLA contacted my doctors and discussed my medication, my risks and whether they deemed me safe to drive. Once they had the doctors’ assessments back, they made their official outcome. Waiting for the outcome is daunting and you always question the what ifs. After about eight weeks, I received confirmation: they were happy for me to continue driving and they advised when this will be re-accessed again.

As a serious injury advisor, it is good to bear this in mind, especially where automatism might be raised. We can seriously undermine a defendant’s case of automatism where the defendant has a DVLA notifiable condition, which they have failed to declare to the DVLA and likely their insurers.

What Is Automatism?

Avoiding responsibility for an accident by alleging you were in a state of automatism is an idea that has existed in both criminal and civil law for decades.

Automatism, in a legal setting, is the involuntary performance of action without that person making the conscious decision to act.

In most instances, it is caused by factors such as physical or mental illness.

When it comes to personal injury cases, automatism is essentially a defence that alleges that a person cannot be held legally responsible for the accident.

It claims at the time of the event, the otherwise responsible individual had suffered a sudden and total loss of control, rendering their actions involuntary, which could not have been anticipated, and which caused them to be a party to a horrible accident through no fault of their own.

An example of this may be a car driver who suffers a seizure or other medical episode, while behind the wheel, which causes them to suddenly and without warning become unconscious.

This argument has been raised by a number of insurers in an attempt to protect their clients from responsibility.