Claiming from a hit and run driver

How can compensation be claimed if the defendant driver is unknown?

How can I make a personal injury compensation claim when the driver does not have insurance

The Court of Appeal has widened the scope whereby someone injured by a hit and run driver can claim compensation from the vehicle’s insurer.

In a case decided by the court in May, Miss Cameron was driving her Ford Fiesta in Leeds when it was hit by a Nissan Micra. The Micra then hit another car before driving off.

In this case a witness had the presence of mind to make a note of the registration number, and the car was traced to its owner, a Mr Hussain. Mr Hussain refused to say who had been driving the car at the time but was prosecuted and convicted for the offence of failing to give information about the identity of the driver. The insurers also discovered that the insurance for the car had been obtained by someone using a false identity.

That left Miss Cameron with a problem. She had some modest injuries, and her car had been written off. If Mr Hussain had identified the driver, she could have made a claim against the driver, and whether that had been Mr Hussain or anyone else, his insurers would have paid any compensation.

Under the Road Traffic Act 1988 it is compulsory to have at least third party insurance to drive on the road. This insures you in respect of any injury or damage to property you might cause by driving. If someone does claim compensation from you, your insurance company will usually take over the case and defend it for you, and pay out any money you are required to pay.

However, the claim is against the driver; but if the driver could not be identified, how could there be a claim at all? If the driver can’t be identified and therefore can’t be ordered to pay any compensation, the insurers have nothing to pay for.

The law on compulsory motor insurance is there to protect innocent third parties, whether they are other drivers, passengers, cyclists, pedestrians or the owners of property that might be damaged by vehicles. Under European law, motor insurers who insure vehicles must cover claims by third parties, even if the defendant driver’s insurance is invalid, for example if the owner has lied in the insurance application, or if the vehicle has been stolen. The insurer can then, for what it might be worth, recover what it has paid out from the defendant driver, but the injured party is protected.

The same European law also requires the motor insurance industry to provide compensation to innocent accident victims where the vehicle is not insured at all, or if the driver cannot be traced, under the Motor Insurers’ Bureau scheme, known as the MIB.

Whilst the MIB schemes to compensate victims of uninsured and untraced drivers has been around for a long time and generally works well, they have their limitations. The scheme for untraced drivers especially has certain limitations on the compensation that can be recovered.

In general, in court proceedings the court, for obvious reasons, requires the parties to be identified with a name and address. In this case it was not possible due to the car’s owner refusing to say who had been driving.

The court was therefore left with a choice: whether to block the claim because the defendant could not be identified or to allow the claim to proceed by an innocent motorist who was only being prevented from bringing a claim because of an uncooperative defendant.

The court decided that fairness should win the day. Whilst normally the defendant would be named, in this case it was not essential, and they could be identified simply as the driver involved in the collision on that date.

Whilst the circumstances of the case are unusual, it shows the court will often try to be flexible to ensure that justice is done. Some people are not aware that there are safeguards in place to ensure innocent accident victims do not go uncompensated, whether that is through the court or the MIB system.

If you have been involved in a car accident caused by an uninsured or unidentified driver please contact our Personal Injury team to find out if you can make a successful compensation claim. Our claims are provided on a No Win No Fee basis and we offer a free initial claim consultation with one of our dedicated Personal Injury team.

Contact us today on: 01733 882800 or email on: info@hcsolicitors.co.uk.

Author

Richard Moon

Senior Solictor

richard.moon@hcsolicitors.co.uk

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This article has been prepared for general interest and information purposes only; it does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on as such. While all possible care has been taken in the preparation of this article, no responsibility for the accuracy and/or correctness of the information and commentary set out in the article, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed or accepted by the firm or the authors.