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Supreme Court clarifies recourse in unknown driver cases

25 February 2019

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Claimant lawyers will not be able to bring proceedings against unnamed parties following a Supreme Court ruling last week.

The ruling in Cameron v Liverpool Victoria Insurance Co Ltd means that RTA claimants that are unable to identify the driver at fault will only be able to make their claim via the untraced drivers agreement through the Motor Insurers Bureau.

The untraced drivers agreement is less attractive to claimants than a claim against an insurer because limited sums are available to cover legal costs and collision has to be reported to police within a tight timeframe.

It also does not cover a claimant where he or she has received benefits from insurance or other third parties, there is a cap of £1m and an excess of £300 for property damage claims and it is generally felt that the process is less transparent than court proceedings. The Supreme Court’s decision overruled a decision by the Court of Appeal in May 2017.

In summarising the latest ruling, Lord Sumption reasoned that an unknown person cannot be identified simply by referring to something they have one. “The person unknown driving vehicle registration number Y598 SPS who collided with vehicle registration number KG03 ZJZ on 26 May 2013”, does not identify anyone. It does not enable one to know whether any particular person is the one referred to. Nor is there any specific interim relief such as an injunction which can be enforced in a way that will bring the proceedings to his attention”, he said.

Put simply: “It cannot be enough that the wrongdoer himself knows who he is”.

In Sumption’s view: “Justice in legal proceedings must be available to both sides. It is a fundamental principle of justice that a person cannot be made subject to the jurisdiction of the court without having such notice of the proceedings as will enable him to be heard.”

In approaching the judgement, Sumption drew a distinction between defendant that could not be named but that could be identified and those that were both anonymous and unidentifiable.

Squatters, for example, may not be names but would be identifiable by their location and therefore it would be possible in principle to communicate with them and serve them with a claim.

Categorised in:

Personal injury Road traffic