The Duke of Edinburgh collided with another car after pulling out into a main road, according to witnesses.
If that was the case, he could be prosecuted for driving without due care and attention, which carries an unlimited fine, according to Nick Freeman, the lawyer dubbed Mr Loophole.
But the 97-year-old royal would have a good defence if he blamed being blinded by the sun – as one witness reported – and could also avoid prosecution by surrendering his licence, Mr Freeman added.
The duke’s Land Rover Freelander flipped on to the driver’s side after colliding with a Kia when he pulled out of a side road near the Queen’s Sandringham Estate in Norfolk on Thursday.
Mr Freeman, known for representing celebrity clients such as David Beckham, said it appeared the duke pulled out into the path of the other car.
“If he simply drove without due care and attention because of a relevant medical issue – because maybe at 97 you’re just not as sharp as you would have been – and he’s just made a mistake, which is probably what’s happened – on the face of it he would be driving without due care and attention,” Mr Freeman said.
According to Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) guidance, the offence of driving without due care and attention is committed when a person’s driving falls below the standard expected of a competent and careful driver.
The test of whether the standard of driving has fallen below the required standard applies both when “the manner of driving in question is deliberate and when it occurs as a result of incompetence, inadvertence or inexperience”, the CPS guidance states.
The offence carries up to nine points and an unlimited fine based on net disposable income and Mr Freeman joked: “Taxpayers’ tax could go up a penny in the pound.”
There is a precedent for members of the royal family to be prosecuted for driving offences.
Philip’s daughter the Princess Royal was given a written warning for speeding on the M1 in 1972 and fined £40 after she was clocked doing 96mph on the same motorway five years later.
In 1990 the Princess Royal was banned from driving and fined £150 for speeding by magistrates in Stow-on-the-Wold, in Gloucestershire, and in 2001 she was fined £400 after admitting driving her Bentley at 93mph on a dual carriageway.
Mr Freeman said that before bringing any charges against the duke, prosecutors must weigh up whether they are in the public interest.
“In my view even if he’s found to be at fault, I think anyone advising him would contact the CPS and say look, he now accepts he shouldn’t be driving and he’s going to undertake to surrender his licence and not drive again,” Mr Freeman said.
“I think on that basis it would not be in the public interest to prosecute.”
But this must be balanced with what those in the other car make of the matter. Both required hospital treatment.
“They might say, ‘We don’t care who he is’.
He added: “They might think at his age, at his position, he could afford a driver, he’s got all the facilities, he shouldn’t be risking the lives of others. They might push for prosecution.”
One witness, Roy Warne, who helped the duke from the car, told the Sun he overheard the royal tell police he had been “dazzled by the sun”.
Mr Freeman said: “If the sun was so low and right in your eyes, sometimes it’s impossible to see, and that may well have been the case and that would afford him a defence.”
Adam Shaw, from solicitors Lewis Nedas Law said he did not think Philip would be prosecuted.
“Unless somebody could say that he was driving in a manner in which he ought not to be, i.e. going too fast or taking corners without viewing properly. But on the face of it, I don’t think that he’s going to be investigated,” he said.
“I think if the police were going to investigate him, he would likely have been arrested or interviewed anyway.
“But I don’t think it will be going anywhere.”
He added: “I don’t think he’s committed a criminal offence. I think it’s just an accident. It sounds to me as if he’s been breathalysed and I don’t think there’s any suggestion that he’s been dangerously driving.”
The duke is not the first royal to flip a Land Rover.
The Princess Royal’s daughter Zara Tindall escaped with minor facial injuries when she overturned her car on a Gloucestershire country road in 2000.