Emergency treatment under the Road Traffic Act
Under the Road Traffic Act 1988, the first doctor to provide emergency treatment to the victim of a road traffic accident is generally entitled to charge a fee of £21.30 in respect of each person treated (Section 158(2).
Since 1999 the ability to levy a fee under S158 of the Road Traffic Act, has been limited to claims by doctors not working in NHS hospitals, as the cost of hospital treatment is recovered from insurers directly by the NHS.
The fee can be levied even if the person driving the vehicle at the time of the accident is on the GP’s NHS list.
What is defined as emergency treatment?
There has been some debate as to whether ’emergency treatment’ only applies to treatment provided at the scene of the accident.
S158(1) of the Act defines ’emergency treatment’ as ‘medical or surgical treatment or examination that is immediately required as a result of bodily injury (including fatal injury) caused by, or arising out of, the use of a motor vehicle on a road’.
The Road Traffic Act is silent as to what is immediately required.
It is a common understanding that some injuries may not manifest until several hours after the accident and do not warrant a visit to a hospital accident and emergency department but do warrant the attention of the local primary health care team.
Under such circumstances where a claim is to be made, the BMA professional fees committee believes that the patient should be seen within one working day.
Our legal advice is that, while treatment provided at the scene of the accident will be most common, treatment provided at the GP’s surgery can be included in the definition of ’emergency treatment’ and therefore attract a fee under the Road Traffic Act.
The person driving the vehicle at the time of the accident is responsible for meeting the doctor’s professional fee for themselves, their passengers or anyone injured by their vehicle.
All UK motor insurance policies cover such fees and payment of such fees does not constitute any admission of liability.
What is the process to recover my fee?
- Either a verbal or written request should be made to the person who was using the vehicle at the time of the occurrence which led to the emergency treatment.
- This request must be served upon that person within seven days from when emergency treatment was given.
- It must be signed by the claimant, stating his or her name and address, the circumstances in which emergency treatment was effected, and confirm that the claimant was the first person to render emergency assistance.
- The request may be served by delivering it to the person using the vehicle or by recorded delivery to the usual or last known address.
- If you can’t get the name and address of the person using the vehicle, contact the appropriate chief constable (in practice the ‘dealing police officer’, who is required by the Act (S156) to supply the doctor with any information identifying the vehicle involved in the accident and the name and address of the person using it.
- The fees payable under the Act are recoverable by Court proceedings as if they were a simple contract of debt due from the person who was using the vehicle to the doctor rendering the service.