A recent Court of Appeal hearing seems to have provided a positive answer to this very question. The judges in Cameron -v- Hussain (May 2017) considered the case of a car crash victim attempting to claim damages against a driver who had left the scene before being identified. Before this landmark decision, road traffic accident victims were only allowed to claim compensation in court if the name of the driver who caused the crash could be proven. If the identity of a driver responsible for a car accident was in doubt, insurers were able to escape liability and could refuse to pay a victim’s otherwise valid claim.
Sometimes a driver will give false information or leave the scene of an accident without providing their details and, although the driver is usually the owner and insurer of that vehicle, unless all the details match, the innocent driver faces making a claim against an industry-backed fund operated by the Motor Insurers’ Bureau – the outcome of such a claim is generally less favourable to innocent motorists than a claim against an insurer.
In the Cameron case, the appeal court ruled that in certain circumstances an unidentified driver can be sued and the vehicle’s insurer held liable for loss or injuries caused by the accident. Mr Hussain was the registered keeper of a car undisputedly shown to have caused a crash. He was also thought to have been driving the vehicle at the time of the incident. Although covered by a valid insurance policy, he refused to identify himself or anyone else as the driver and his insurer refused to accept liability because the identity of the driver at fault was in doubt.
The Court of Appeal heard lengthy legal arguments from both sides and ultimately decided that in the specific circumstances of this case it was right to allow the innocent victim of the road accident to pursue her claim even though she could not name the person who caused the accident.
Although it has long been possible to issue proceedings against unknown parties in other types of cases, this ruling is important because it marks the first time a court has permitted the issue of claims proceedings against an unnamed driver following a road traffic accident.
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