Clampdown on claims against insurers following Supreme Court ruling

Innocent insured parties will no longer be able to claim against at-fault unknown drivers, following a recent Supreme Court ruling. Last month (February 2019), the Supreme Court determined that proceedings can no longer be brought against unnamed parties, as they cannot be served with a notice telling them about the claim.

The ruling in Cameron v Liverpool Victoria Insurance Co Ltd has been welcomed by defendant solicitors and insurers, and highlights that victims of road traffic accidents (RTA) who cannot identify the driver at fault are to now make their claim against the Motor Insurance Bureau (MIB). In the proceedings, Lord Sumption rejected the argument that an at-fault driver could be sued under a pseudonym or description.

The judgement shows the court’s effort to deter claims against unnamed defendants and thus curb fraudulent claims. It is now the case that unless the defendant can be served or the proceedings will necessarily be drawn to his attention, these claims will not be permitted. The commonplace practice of serving proceedings on an absent defendant’s insurer will therefore end. This will consequently see more claims into the Untraced Drivers Agreement (UTDA) to the MIB.

Claims under the UTDA have been the more unattractive option for various reasons, such as only limited sums being able to be recovered with regards to legal costs; there being a cap of £1m and excess of £300 with regards to property damage claims; as well as the MIBs more interrogative approach, which is viewed as less independent than court proceedings.

Paul Bennett, partner at Hutchinson Thomas specialising in personal injury, said:

“A key element here is the need to be able to identify the at-fault driver. An anonymous driver, who also cannot be identified, is not able to be sued. Justice has to be available to both sides in legal proceedings. This was not possible in this case as the defendant was unknown and therefore could not be made subject to the proceedings.

“The Supreme Court ruling will be very welcomed by insurance companies as it deters claimants from suing insurers whose clients cannot be identified, which has been noted as sometimes being a falsified practice. Innocent parties will now need to seek justice through the MIB if the at-fault driver cannot be identified. Although this can be a more lengthy process, it is the correct route to compensation and reduces insurer costs.”

For more information, contact Paul Bennett on 01639 640163 or email