Unfortunately accidents on the road happen all too frequently across the UK, with government statistics showing there were an estimated 182,000 road accidents in the UK in 2016.
But what happens if the other driver involved in the accident cannot be found?
A typical scenario is that you are involved in a car accident through no fault of your own. The other driver has apologised, given you a name of Mr Smith, their phone number, and who they are insured with, and has offered to pay for your vehicle repairs.
After a couple of hours you try to ring the other driver but you just get an engaged ringtone. You ring your insurers to let them know what has happened, but it becomes apparent that nobody knows anything about Mr Smith, and that the registration of the car involved actually belongs to someone else who lives on the Isle of Man.
You are then told that the driver who hit you was using cloned number plates and not only that, but also that Mr Smith is likely to be a false name. You’re also advised that the address provided is certainly false.
When this happens it is unlikely your insurer will be able to trace anyone or recover their money for your repairs. But if your policy includes legal expenses insurance, you may be referred to a panel solicitors to see whether they can help you with your own claim.
The Untraced Drivers Agreement
You can also apply to the Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB) under the Untraced Drivers Agreement. The Motor Insurers Bureau is an organisation established to compensate drivers who suffer injury or loss as a result of uninsured or untraced drivers.
The Untraced Drivers Agreement sets out the conditions under which the Motor Insurers Bureau will make an award of compensation for accidents where the driver or car responsible can’t be traced. For example, in our case Mr Smith has provided a false name and is therefore untraced.
A report commissioned by the Motor Insurers Bureau and conducted by the University of Leicester estimates that approximately 1 in 10 accidents a year involve hit and run drivers who often can’t be traced.
The agreement itself states that for an award of compensation to be paid, the Motor Insurers Bureau shall at its own cost take all reasonable steps to investigate whether an award should be made. This may involve obtaining evidence such as medical records, police reports or witness statements. An award of compensation will be made where the Motor Insurers Bureau investigates the accident and is satisfied that the untraced driver would be found responsible at Court, and that the untraced driver can’t be identified.
The agreement requires that when making an award, the Motor Insurers Bureau assess the amount in the same way that a Court would.
For accidents that happened before 1st March 2017 the Motor Insurers Bureau could refuse to make an award, unless the matter was reported to the police within 14 days if claiming for personal injury, or within 5 days if property was also damaged (such as vehicle repairs or a damaged phone). For accidents after 1st March 2017 you only need to report the matter to the police if the Motor Insurers Bureau reasonably request you do so.
In addition, you must submit your claim to the Motor Insurers Bureau within 3 years if claiming for personal injury, or within 9 months if just claiming for property damage. To recover compensation for property damage, an award for significant personal injury must have been made to someone in relation to the same event.
Traced Vehicle v Untraced Vehicle
In cases such as that of Mr Smith where an offending vehicle can’t be traced, the Motor Insurers Bureau can refuse to make an award for property damage.
However, when the offending vehicle can be traced a claim for property damage will be subject to a deduction of £300 for accidents before 1st March 2017 or £400 for accidents afterwards. This could happen, for example, where the driver fails to stop but CCTV or a dash cam captures evidence to prove a vehicle with a valid registration was involved but still the driver can’t be traced.
Given the potential pitfalls and complexities of pursuing a claim through the MIB Untraced Drivers Agreement, it is important to obtain legal advice as soon as possible.