Supreme Court settles the debate on who deals with Unidentified Driver cases

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Supreme Court settles the debate on who deals with Unidentified Driver cases

Published 22 November 2019

In Cameron v Liverpool Victoria Insurance Co Ltd [2019] UKSC 6 the claimant’s vehicle was in collision with a “hit and run” vehicle.  The vehicle registration was noted at the scene and the claimant originally sued the registered keeper of the vehicle.  However, it became clear that neither the registered keeper of the vehicle or the policyholder – who was believed to be a fictitious person – was driving the vehicle at the time of the accident.  All the enquires pointed to the same conclusion: the driver of the vehicle could only properly be regarded as Unidentified.  

The claimant tried to amend their case against the registered keeper of the vehicle and brought a claim against "The person unknown driving vehicle registration number Y598 SPS who collided with vehicle registration number KG03 ZIZ on 26th May 2013". 

The District Judge refused the claimant's application and granted summary judgment for the insurer of the vehicle, the decision being upheld on appeal by the High Court.  The Court of Appeal, by a majority decision, allowed the appeal holding that a judgment for damages could be obtained against an unnamed driver of the vehicle.

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court overturned the decision of the Court of Appeal holding that an unidentified driver cannot be sued, irrespective of whether a policy of insurance exists in relation to the vehicle being driven.  The proper recourse was to bring a claim against the Motor Insurers' Bureau, not the insurer.

In many ways, this decision sounds perfectly logical from a common sense perspective: a person cannot be sued unless they can be made aware of the case against them.  Practicality aside, the concept is also fundamental to the principal of justice.

So is this the last we will hear of the unidentified driver problem?  We suspect not.  The Supreme Court made it clear that distinctions could be drawn where the defendant’s name is not known, but the identity is known - the example of a squatter was given.  The Court did not venture an opinion on cases where the claimant has identified the insurer and a possible category of people driving – for example, a husband or his wife.  Cameron is a welcome decision bringing clarity to this issue and will be welcomed by Insurers but, as so often is the case in litigation, although you think  the line is fairly clear, it is open to being redrawn when the right case presents.

Authors

John Maillie

John Maillie

Glasgow

+44 (0)141 223 8558

Annis Mackay

Annis Mackay

Glasgow

+44 (0)141 223 8560

Stephanie Seidel

Stephanie Seidel

Glasgow

+44 (0) 141 223 8692

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