The question as to whether the Claimant can sue an unknown and unnamed driver where details of the vehicle owners insurance was available was recently considered in the Court of Appeal in the case of Cameron v Hussain [2017] EWCA Civ 366.

In this case, the Claimant was injured in a hit and run road traffic accident. The vehicle which struck the Claimant was eventually identified together with a policy of insurance. However, the driver of the vehicle could not be identified and the vehicle keeper refused to provide any information about the driver of the vehicle at the time of the accident.

Proceedings were therefore issued against the vehicle keeper and also the vehicle’s insurance provider. The insurance provider denied liability on the basis that the vehicle owner was not covered at the time of the policy and because the Claimant could not identify or name the driver of the vehicle. Based on this, the insurer applied for summary judgement with the Claimant making an application for permission to amend the Particulars of Claim to substitute the named first Defendant with a Defendant identified only by the following description:

‘The person unknown driving vehicle registration number Y598 SPS who collided with vehicle registration number KG03 ZIZ on 26th May 2013.’

The Claimant’s application was dismissed by the District Judge and by the Circuit Judge on appeal.

The question was thereafter considered by the Court of Appeal. The majority held that there was nothing in the Rules which prohibits a claim against an unnamed party, provided that party is “suitably identified by an appropriate description”, although in such a case the Court will consider whether it would further the overriding objective to permit such a case to proceed. There is no reason why such a claim could not result in an award of damages (rather than a non-monetary remedy); and the availability of an alternative remedy (such as a claim against the Motor Insurers’ Bureau) is no bar to a claim against an unnamed party.

This is a significant decision in that a Claimant can now bring proceedings against an unidentified driver of a vehicle in order to enforce judgement against the RTA insurer of that vehicle. However, there are concerns that following this decision the floodgates could open to fraudulent claims and issues of identity. It will also be worth watching to see whether the Motor Insurers’ Bureau try to have this decision overturned in another case given the significance of the decision.