What does impecunious mean?

Representing the defendant in connection with a road traffic accident in relation to which liability was initially disputed.

The claimant’s vehicle was inspected on 9 March 2011 and declared a total loss. Notwithstanding this, the vehicle remained in storage for 162 days until 5 August 2011. A claim was presented for storage and recovery charges of £4,518. In addition, the claimant hired a replacement vehicle on credit from 2 March 2011 until 15 August 2011, accruing hire charges of £10,956.

The claimant pleaded impecuniosity. In her reply to defence she pleaded: "the claimant hired the vehicle on credit because she was unable to afford to hire at spot hire rates without suffering undue hardship and was therefore impecunious." In her statement, the claimant wrote: "I was unable to pay out of my own pocket for a car when the accident occurred through no fault of my own."

The claimant was asked to disclose bank statements for the relevant period. Statements were disclosed in the joint name of the claimant and her husband which appeared to support the argument that she was impecunious. The claimant’s solicitors were asked to confirm in writing that this was the only account held by their client. Further statements were subsequently disclosed in response in the claimant’s sole name which revealed that the claimant in fact had over £8,000 of savings.

A Counter Schedule was served relying upon the claimant’s bank statement as evidence to refute the claimant’s statement that she was impecunious and could not afford to replace her vehicle. It was submitted on behalf of the defendant that in hiring on credit for a five month period when she reasonably had the means to buy an alternative vehicle or hire on a spot rate basis, the claimant had failed to mitigate her losses. It was further submitted that the claimant had failed to mitigate her losses in continuing to keep her vehicle in storage when it had already been declared a total loss.

The claimant accepted the defendant’s position as stated in the Counter Schedule and settlement was reached in relation to hire and storage in the sum of £3,171.81 – a saving of over £12,300 on the pleaded claim.

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