The Supreme Court Refuses Personal Injury Claim Against Unnamed Driver
James Braund, Personal Injury Solicitor, considers recent developments in personal injury claims against untraced drivers in Road Traffic Accidents.
Can I bring a personal injury claim against an unnamed driver?
In all personal injury claims it is of the utmost importance to correctly and adequately identify the Defendant. A person cannot ordinarily look to bring a personal injury claim against someone without knowing who it is that they are seeking to sue. This raises difficult issues in cases where the driver of a vehicle leaves the scene of a Road Traffic Accident without stopping and cannot be identified.
Details of a related personal injury case
The Supreme Court recently examined this issue in the case of Cameron v Liverpool Victoria Insurance Co Ltd  UKSC 6. In that case, the driver of a vehicle made off from the scene without stopping or exchanging details. A witness had taken the registration number of the vehicle and the registered keeper of the vehicle was therefore identified.
Unfortunately, the registered keeper had not been the driver of the vehicle and he refused to disclose the identity of the driver (for which he was convicted). The other driver (the Claimant in the case) had been injured in the accident and had also incurred credit hire charges.
The Claimant initially issued proceedings against the registered keeper and Liverpool Victoria (who insured the vehicle). This was defended on the basis that there was no evidence that the registered keeper had been the driver of the vehicle.
As a result, the Claimant attempted to substitute the registered keeper for “the person unknown driving vehicle registration number Y598 SPS who collided with vehicle registration number KG03 ZJZ on 26 May 2013”. The application was initially dismissed by the lower Courts, but then allowed, on appeal, by the Court of Appeal.
Liverpool Victoria appealed to the Supreme Court who agreed with them and allowed the appeal on 20 February 2019. It was recognised that an identifiable but anonymous person can be served with a claim by alternative service, pursuant to CPR 6.15.
The Supreme Court, however, held that it is not sufficient to identify an unknown person simply by referring to something they had done in the past (as the Claimant had attempted to do), as it did not enable someone to know whether a particular person was the Defendant.
It was considered essential for any form of alternative service that there be a reasonable prospect that such alternative service may bring the claim to the attention of the Defendant. In this case it was held that alternative service on the policy holder’s insurers could not be expected to reach the driver.
What does this mean for others looking to claim against unidentified drivers?
The decision will naturally restrict the scope in which personal injury claims can be brought against insurers in untraced driver claims. It should, of course, be remembered that claims can be pursued against the Motor Insurers Bureau (a central fund, contributed to by all motor insurers) in untraced driver claims, under the Untraced Drivers Scheme. Although a claim against the Motor Insurers Bureau is less advantageous to Claimants than a direct claim against an insurer, a good recovery can still often be made against the Motor Insurers Bureau.
There are specific additional requirements which must be satisfied when bringing a claim against the Motor Insurers Bureau (for example the accident must have been reported to the police within 14 days).
At Trethowans LLP, our Personal Injury lawyers have significant experience and expertise in bringing claims against the Motor Insurers Bureau. If you require advice on bringing a Road Traffic Accident personal injury claim against the Motor Insurers bureau or against another driver or insurer please contact James Braund on 01202 339 014.
@James Braund – Specialist Personal Injury and Clinical Negligence Senior Associate Solicitor, Poole and Bournemouth