Insurer Not Liable Where Driver Unidentifiable

In order to sue someone, they have to be served with a notice of claim unless the service of the notice can be properly dispensed with.

Can the notice of claim be properly dispensed with if the person being claimed against is not only unidentified, but unidentifiable? In a recent case, the Supreme Court decided the answer was no.

The case arose after a traffic accident which was the fault of the driver of a Nissan Micra. Another driver was injured but had failed to take the particulars of the driver who was at fault, and that person has never been traced because the car's owner has refused to say who was driving it at the time.

The car was insured with a leading insurer, but the name on the policy was not that of the owner of the car, and is believed to be a fictitious person. The injured woman sued the owner of the car for damages, later adding the insurer to the claim.

The owner of the car was not the driver and does not have insurance for it, so the insurer denied liability. The injured woman sought to bring the claim against 'the person unknown driving vehicle registration number Y598 SPS who collided with vehicle registration number KG03 ZJZ on 26 May 2013'.

The result was a legal battle that ended in the Supreme Court, which ruled that the woman's only right of action was against the Motor Insurers' Bureau, a body set up to provide compensation (which is typically much less than that resulting from claims against insurers) where the vehicle is uninsured or the driver responsible is untraceable.