For many, being involved in a road traffic accident can come at a terrible cost; emotionally, physically and financially. And while motorists should have insurance that protects them in the event of an accident, for pedestrians, cyclists or drivers without comprehensive cover, the toll of an accident with an uninsured or hit-and-run driver can be terrible.
It is easy to assume that most drivers are insured; however, there are a staggering one million uninsured drivers on British roads, according to estimates by the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB). While this figure has halved since 2005 it is still astonishingly high.
Uninsured and hit-and-run drivers cause, on average, an estimated 26,000 injuries and 130 deaths each year on our road networks, according to the MIB. The Department for Transport, meanwhile, says hit-and-run drivers were responsible for 12% of all road traffic accidents in 2015.
Of course, a motorist with comprehensive cover should be able to make a claim through their own insurer for anything related to damage to the car or other property, or personal injury.
However, if you are not covered comprehensively, or you’re a pedestrian or a cyclist without cover, and you’re involved in an accident with an uninsured or hit-and-run driver, there is something you can do.
When the driver is uninsured
If you are involved in an accident with an uninsured driver, you have a few options.
First, if you have the details of the driver whose fault it was (because they’ve stopped), you can go to a solicitor to seek compensation through legal proceedings. Often this will be on a no-win no-fee basis, but if you win a personal injury claim, solicitors are only allowed to take up to 25% of the damages awarded (success fees for other types of claim vary depending on the issue).
If you don’t know the driver, you can make a claim through the MIB – more on what this is below.
The MIB handles an average of 26,000 claims annually involving uninsured drivers. It does, however, stress that you must make sure to obtain the driver’s details where the driver has stopped, and to report them to the police if they refuse to give you any insurance policy information.
When it’s a hit-and-run driver
Litigation is a lot trickier if you are involved in a hit-and-run accident. If the police are unable to trace the driver, effectively there is no one to claim against, leaving the victim in a difficult position.
This is where the MIB really becomes your only port of call. It is essential to report the incident to the police, who will attempt to identify the driver or the vehicle involved. Once all attempts to identify the person responsible have failed, then you can file a claim to the MIB.
As an example, law firm, Slater and Gordon, represented a pedestrian in 2016 who was the victim of a road traffic accident in which the driver failed to stop. As a result, the firm referred the victim to the MIB to seek compensation as the police were unable to track down the offending motorist. The woman was left with life-changing injuries, and received a settlement of £123,783 from the MIB as a result.
You can, however, represent and submit a claim yourself without using a law firm.
So what is the Motor Insurers’ Bureau?
The MIB is the back-stop for road users who do not have pre-emptive recourse in place for compensation in accidents. Cyclists and pedestrians in particular could stand to benefit from the fund, as not all cyclists are insured, while insurance policies seem to be non-existent for pedestrians (we checked a number of comparison websites to no avail).
The MIB fund is reliant on a levy imposed upon all law-abiding motorists. In 2017, the value of the levy paid into the fund by all insurers was £256 million. This means that every honest premium paying motorist pays around £7.34 annually towards the fund through their insurance policy. Cyclists and pedestrians, while able to benefit from the scheme, do not contribute to the fund through taxes or other means.
Cyclists can also get free legal advice following an accident from cycling organisation, Cycling UK.