Hit and run accidents, where the offending driver leaves the scene of an accident, are all too common. It is a criminal offence, as well as a callous act, not to exchanging details with the other party or report the accident to the police. The accident victim may be left injured in the road without any call to the emergency services and no help at hand.
Tracing the driver
A driver may exit the scene because they are uninsured, or have been drinking, or if the car is stolen. In these cases they may escape punishment because the vehicle cannot be traced and they will also escape liability to the injured party because neither they or any insurer can be traced.
We have access to databases that allow us to trace the registered keeper and insurer from a vehicle registration number, so it may be possible to bring a claim against the insurer in the usual way, if the injured party or a witness has taken down that number.
But even without a registration number or a traced driver, a claim can still be made for the injuries and other losses sustained by the accident victim. The claim is to the Motor Insurers Bureau, a government created organisation which is funded by all motor insurers.
There are special rules about MIB Untraced Driver cases, which make them more difficult than a normal personal injury claim.
Firstly there are important eligibility requirements, such as early reporting. The accident must have been reported to the police immediately, and if there is no evidence that a police report was made within 5 days (where property damage claimed) or within 14 days (injury claims) the claim may be rejected.
Secondly, the usual rules on evidence and procedure do not apply, so court proceedings cannot be issued in these cases – we have to work within the MIB’s self-contained scheme, which means allowing them to obtain the evidence and instruct experts. The process is started with the completion and submission of an application form. The MIB will investigate liability and will accept a claim where they are satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, that the accident was caused by the negligent driving of an untraced vehicle.
They will then assess the value of the claim, with the benefit of expert medical evidence and any evidence of losses we are able to provide (they will not usually pay the first £300 of any property damage claim).
And the MIB only make a limited contribution towards costs, meaning the injured person also has to pay something towards those costs. The funding arrangement depends on the type and value of the case, and this is something we will discuss with you before starting off your claim.
Despite its limitations, the MIB Untraced Driver Scheme does allow a compensation claim in cases where otherwise there would be no remedy, and our solicitors can help you bring the claim and maximise the settlement.
What to do if you have been involved in a Hit and Run accident:
Report the accident to the police immediately by phone and wait for the police to attend the scene. If that is not possible then report in person to your local police station as soon as you can and get a crime reference number.
Write down a description of the offending vehicle and any detail at all of the driver as well as the accident circumstances
Speak to any eye witnesses and make a note of their name and address
Recent case study
In 2010/11 we acted for Mr Z, a young Polish man living in London who worked as an HGV driver for Parcelforce. He was cycling home one day in Holloway when he was knocked off his bicycle by a car. The witness evidence was patchy, but it did appear from the evidence obtained by the police that Mr Z was proceeding straight ahead along a main road at night but with his bike lights on and wearing a cycling helmet, when a vehicle turned across his path into a side turning from the other side of the road, causing a collision. The car drive off and none of the witnesses noted the registration number. We made various enquiries but were unable to trace the vehicle. The MIB were also unable to identify the driver or the vehicle and they duly accepted that Mr Z was eligible for a payment under the scheme.
The value of the claim was more complicated: Mr Z sustained a spinal injury, with a fractured vertebra in the neck. He recovered well without the need for surgery, but did not return to work as a lorry driver. Instead he found office based work for the same employer, which paid less because he lost the opportunity to do overtime and lost his shift allowance.
We produced evidence of his earnings before and after the accident and we obtained evidence from a spinal surgeon to show that he would not be fit to return to lorry driving. We were therefore able to claim the difference between his pre-accident earnings and his lower level of future earnings. The case settled after negotiations for £95,000.
What you should do next?
On contacting us you will speak in confidence to a member of our personal injury team who will ask you specific details about your injury including where and when it took place. It is helpful to the claims process if you can provide us with as much information as possible, including any relevant pictures of the injury, pictures of where the injury took place, details of any witnesses and reports of any medical treatment you had as a result of the injury.
We will then be able to advise you on whether or not you can make a claim for compensation.