A case that jolted insurance and legal circles has been put to rest.
For anyone following the claim put forward by Bianca Cameron against an unknown at-fault driver and the vehicle’s insurer over a collision in 2013, here’s the latest on the legal action that went all the way to the UK’s Supreme Court.
In a nutshell, British insurance provider LV= secured a ruling in its favour – an overturn of a Court of Appeal decision which essentially meant that insurers would have to satisfy judgments obtained against unnamed individuals on the basis that the vehicle is covered by a policy issued by them.
The original case was filed against the car’s registered keeper, Naveed Hussain, who turned out as neither the person driving the involved Nissan Micra at the time of the accident nor the policyholder of the vehicle’s coverage. The claim was subsequently amended to cite the unknown motorist, whose identity Hussain declined to disclose.
Cameron was able to replace the defendant after two appeals. In response, Keoghs-represented LV= elevated the case to the Supreme Court – raising a couple of issues including the claim form amendment – and ultimately won the case.
Citing the reasons for yesterday’s judgment, the Supreme Court noted: “It is a fundamental feature of the statutory scheme of compulsory insurance in the UK that it does not confer on victims a direct right of recovery against an insurer for the underlying liability of the driver.
“The only direct right against the insurer is the right to require it to satisfy a judgment against the driver, under section 151, once the driver’s liability has been established in legal proceedings. Consistent with this approach, the 2003 Agreement assumes that judgment cannot be obtained against the driver if he cannot be identified, and therefore the only recourse is against the MIB (Motor Insurers’ Bureau), not the insurer.”
‘Return to equilibrium’
Describing the ruling as “an important judgment which restores the normal equilibrium in road traffic compensation claims in the UK,” Weightmans partner David Holt said the decision is welcome news. The law firm is from the camp of the MIB, which successfully applied to intervene in the Supreme Court in support of the insurer’s appeal.
“A number of actions had been stayed pending this judgment and these claims will now have to proceed under the UtDA (Untraced Drivers’ Agreement) rather than by way of proceedings against the relevant insurer,” added Holt.
LV=, for its part, was “extremely pleased that common sense has prevailed.” GI claims director Martin Milliner stated: “Although the case in question was a low value motor claim, the claimant’s arguments sought to drive a coach and horses through UK law. If this blatant attack on the MIB Untraced Drivers Agreement had been successful then it would have created a ‘fraudsters charter’ that could have been abused by criminals for a safe passage through the judicial system.”
He said the concept that providers could have been liable to satisfy judgments against unidentified defendants – without the opportunity to look into the claim – could have had grave consequences not only for customers but for the insurance industry.
Milliner commented further that the claimant could have utilised the mechanisms already in place to recoup losses. Lord Sumption, who gave the lead judgment, himself pointed out: “It is cheaper and quicker to claim against the Bureau. But for reasons which remain unclear, in spite of her counsel’s attempt to explain them, Ms Cameron has elected not to do that.”
Meanwhile equally happy with the decision was Keoghs, whose partner and counterfraud director Damian Ward called the case a failed move against UtDA.
“It is long-established that the victim of an untraced driver in the UK has protection in the various forms of the Untraced Drivers Agreement,” said Ward. “This novel but ultimately unsuccessful attack on this well-established and well-functioning position was dismissed not only twice prior to the split decision of the Court of Appeal but then unanimously by the Supreme Court.”
Concurring, Kennedys partner Ian Davies asserted in a statement sent to Insurance Business: “We have returned to the established approach and insurers’ systems and processes should not need to be amended. The claimant fraternity will follow their previous approach leading to certainty in the market which, as we approach the whiplash reform and Brexit, is to be welcomed.”