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Title: Driver scarpered after hitting my bike

Date: 23 January 2014

Question

I was involved in a hit and run last year where a car drove my bike while I was stationary at traffic lights causing damage. After the accident, the car took off at speed down the road. The car was dumped further down the road and I saw another car arrive and pick up the driver. I called the police who took details of both cars including registration plates. The car owner won’t respond to any correspondence from my insurers, or to the police’s request to name the driver. The police then tried to contact the owner/driver to arrange an interview again to no avail. They now inform me that after 6 months the case is closed unless further details come to light. I have fully comp insurance so the bike has been repaired, but I guess as it stands I will have to pay the excess. Is there anything I can do?

A.C. Cambridge

Answer

It’s surprising that the police were happy to let the matter drop rather that pursuing it. Failing to Stop Following an Accident is a serious offence which can result in a driving ban or up to 10 points and a fine of up to £2,500 and in certain circumstances a prison sentence.

Simply abandoning the vehicle isn’t sufficient to escape prosecution either because the registered keeper can be served with a notice requiring him/her to identify the driver at the time of the accident. If the keeper fails to do so then they have committed the offence of Failing to Identify a Driver which carries 6 penalty points and a fine up of £1,000. On that basis it may be an idea to ask the police why they didn’t charge the registered keeper.

As far as your insurer being stuck with the bill for the damage and you the excess, it should be the insurer of the vehicle that hit you, though in light of there being no driver as yet identified you will likely have a great deal of trouble enforcing that position and the cost of doing so would be hugely disproportional.

The way to get to the bottom of it would be to bring a claim against the registered keeper and then, in the event that he denied he was driving, to get a Court Order to force him to reveal the name of the person who was driving or else have Judgment entered against him, a so called Unless Order. His insurer would be liable either for that Judgment or for Judgment against any other identified driver regardless of whether they were named on the policy or not. While this sounds relatively straightforward actually doing so would likely be both expensive and time consuming. A further problem would be that in the event that the keeper named another person, but that person denied driving, you would need to go as far as a very expensive trial in order for the Court to decide who was telling the truth.

From a practical perspective, you might invite your insurer to pursue this on your behalf, however if they are not happy to do so then it probably wouldn’t be worth pursuing yourself.

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