Hit-and-Run Victim Can Sue ‘Unnamed Driver’ – Court of Appeal Test Case
In a decision of great importance to the motor insurance industry and personal injury lawyers, the Court of Appeal has upheld the right of a hit-and-run accident victim to sue the unidentified driver who injured her and wrote off her car.
Following the collision, the other car involved was indentified but its driver was not. The victim’s lawyers launched proceedings, claiming damages on her behalf against the registered keeper of the car and the vehicle’s insurers. It subsequently emerged, however, that the registered keeper was not driving the car at the time of the crash, nor had he been insured to do so. The insurance policy in respect of the car had been taken out fraudulently in a fictitious name.
In those circumstances, the insurers argued successfully that the victim’s claim could not succeed and a judge refused her permission to amend her claim so as to identify the primary defendant as an ‘unnamed driver’. Had that amendment been permitted, the insurers accepted that they would have been liable to compensate her under the policy.
In allowing the victim’s appeal by a majority, the Court exercised its procedural powers to enable the victim to substitute an unnamed driver, identified by reference to the vehicle which she or he was driving at a specific time and place, as first defendant to her claim. That, in turn, enabled her to obtain judgment for damages against the insurers.
The Court noted that the outcome of the case was consistent with the relevant provisions of the Road Traffic Act 1988, the policy of the law in respect of motor insurance and common sense. The amount of the victim’s compensation had yet to be assessed, but her lawyers had valued her claim at £10-15,000.