You can no longer recover against unnamed drivers in road traffic accidents, says the Supreme Court


The laws sorrounding Road Traffic Accidents (RTA) have gone through significant changes over the years, with more to come, as planned reforms tighten the belt even more. This leaves parties recovering less money, and having to go through different channels for it.

There is an obligation upon parties involved in an accident to exchange details at the scene, so that the innocent party can recover their losses. However, certain circumstances such as a hit and run, a party refusing to share their details or deliberately providing incorrect information, can leave the innocent party with only the car registration to make a claim.

Is this enough to identify the driver? What if the registered keeper and the insured party were not the drivers at the time of the accident? Should an insurance company still have to pay out? The Supreme Court was faced with the same questions in the Cameron case. It was decided that insurance companies are not required to pay out if the person bringing the claim failed to identify the driver at the time of the accident. This article will look into the Cameron case and address what options a party will be left with to claim their losses. 

What are the facts of Cameron case?

The case involved Ms Cameron who was injured when her car collided with another. She was only able to note the registration number of the vehicle, as the other party drove off without stopping and exchanging their details. Ms Cameron could not therefore identify the driver. She decided to issue proceedings against the insurance company; Liverpool Victoria Insurance Co Ltd.

However, liability was denied on the basis that there was no evidence to indicate that the owner or insured party of the vehicle, was the driver responsible for colliding into Ms Cameron. Ms Cameron later amended her claim and changed the ‘owner of the vehicle’ to an ‘unidentified driver’ instead. It was held that the insurance company was not required to pay compensation because the claim was involving an unidentified driver.

What did the Supreme Court decide?

The Supreme Court has set out the parameters under which a claim can be made against insurance companies, by underpinning it to two categories. The first is unnamed parties. These parties can be located but not named. The second category is unidentifiable parties. These parties cannot be named and cannot be located. In the case of Cameron, the second category applied, as the driver of the vehicle responsible for the hit and run, was unidentified. Therefore, they could not be named or located.

When the Supreme Court made the decision that ‘drivers can no longer recover against unnamed parties in road traffic accidents’, their decision focused on practicality. Would it be possible to bring the proceedings of the case to the defendant’s attention? In this case, the answer was no because the defendant was both unnamed and could not be located.

Significance of the case:

In the ordinary circumstances of an RTA, the claimant would have been entitled to claim for damages from the other drivers insurers. However, on this occasion, because the other driver was ‘unidentified’, the claimant could not seek compensation from the insurance company. It should also be noted that a claim can be made through Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB) in these circumstances.

A claim to the MIB is recognised as being less beneficial as the party is not able to claim the maximum value that it could’ve against the insurers. Success with MIB is also dependent on establishing the success of the claim, which is a further hurdle for a party.

 Compensation via alternative methods:

As mentioned above, the MIB is an alternative route for the innocent party to seek compensation. The MIB work to help individuals in different types of road accidents such as; a claim against an uninsured driver, a claim against an untraced driver which usually involves a hit and run, accidents in the UK involving a foreign vehicle, claims involving an accident abroad and supporting victims of motor terrorism. Every year the MIB manages claims of over 20,000 bought against untraced or uninsured drivers.

How do I make a claim to MIB?

The MIB have announced that from the 29th June 2020 all claims must be submitted electronically as paper claim forms will no longer be accepted.  The following step are involved in the application process:

  1. You must first identify the type of claim you wish to lodge from the following list:
  • Claim against an uninsured driver
  • Claim against an untraced driver
  • Claim for an accident in the UK involving a foreign-registered vehicle
  • Claims from accidents abroad
  • Victim of motor terrorism
  1. Once the claim is identified, you must register an account with MIB and complete the online form. The form can be completed by you or your representative (Solicitor). If there are more of you claiming, everyone must complete a separate claim form. 
  2. You are required to provide full details of the claim. Once this is completed, the MIB will send you a reference number to send supporting evidence of your claim.
  3. Once the claim form is submitted, an investigation will begin by the MIB, This is where supporting documentation will be required. The investigation stage will include establishing the facts, getting a police report and confirming those involved etc.
  4. Compensation will only be provided where a fault is recognised. Compensation can also be reduced or not paid at all. The timescale for a decision in low value personal injury RTA’s is 6 weeks. Whether compensation is awarded or not, the MIB will write to you or your representative to deliver a decision.

Contact links:

Motor Insurance Bureau number: 01908 830001

Useful resources:

Case Citation: Cameron (Respondent) v Liverpool Victoria Insurance Co Ltd (Appellant) UKSC 2017/0115

This article is intended for guidance only and must not be relied upon for specific advice.