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Road Traffic Accidents – The Importance of Identifying the “Unknown Driver” by Karl Medd, Chartered Legal Executive

The recent Supreme Court decision in Cameron v Liverpool Victoria Insurance Co Ltd provides a clear reminder of the need to obtain from the third party as much information as they are legally obliged to provide at the scene of the incident when involved in a road traffic accident.

The Court of Appeal had previously ruled that it was legitimate for a Claimant to issue proceedings against an unnamed/unknown driver and the motor insurer for the vehicle at the time of the incident. However, the insurance industry has successfully appealed the decision of the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court held that an unknown motorist could not be sued by description only. The liability of the motor insurer is contingent upon a judgment being obtained against their policy holder. If the driver is unknown, the insurer for the vehicle cannot be held directly liable.

A degree of shock or inexperience can be common in the immediate aftermath of an accident and you may not have the presence of mind to ask for the necessary information. It is not uncommon for RTA claimants to be provided with scant information at the scene of the accident by the third party, perhaps a scrap of paper bearing only: “Name. NO00 REG”. 

Section 170 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 states that:

“The driver…must stop and, if required to do so by any person having reasonable grounds for so requiring, give his name and address and also the name and address of the owner and the identification marks of the vehicle

Some people are naturally apprehensive in giving their name and address to a perfect stranger, however, if you have suffered damage to your vehicle and/or personal injuries, you have reasonable grounds for requesting the information specified within the Act.

If the third party refuses to provide the information set out above and within the Road Traffic Act 1988, I would recommend that you report the incident to the Police immediately; take a note of the registration number and a description of the driver, if possible, in the event that the Police are unable to attend the scene or the third party should leave the scene without providing any information.  I would not recommend attempting to take photographs or video footage of the third party in the event that the situation does begin to turn ugly!

If it is not possible to trace the third party and the insurer for the vehicle will not consider the claim, it is possible that you could be compensated for your injuries by the Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB) pursuant to the Untraced Drivers Agreement. In order to pursue this avenue, however, it is essential that you demonstrate that reasonable efforts have been made to trace the unknown driver.

If you have been involved in a road traffic accident, that was not your fault, and need advice, contact our dedicated team on 01325 281111.

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