Claiming Compensation for Hit and Run
My last blog concerned the death of another cyclist on London’s streets.
On a similar topic the Metropolitan Police has now released figures from 2014 confirming an increase in the amount of cyclists and pedestrians injured in London as a result of hit and run accidents. 1014 cyclists and 1212 pedestrians were injured in London as a result of such accidents.
This is a worrying trend and poses more questions for the Metropolitan Police and Transport for London as to how they can tackle the issue. It will also lead to an increase in claims submitted to the Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB) under the Untraced Driver Agreement.
The MIB was created in 1946 to compensate claimants injured by uninsured and untraced motorists. Whilst the MIB is under a duty to pay the claimant’s reasonable legal costs under the uninsured agreement, the untraced agreement does not offer such favourable terms.
I have acted for many injured claimants involved in hit and run accidents in respect of applications to the MIB. They have ranged from fairly minor injuries to catastrophic life changing injuries. For claimants the challenges of dealing with the accident and their injuries are difficult enough, but many then have to struggle with the fact that the person who has caused their injuries has not been identified or apprehended. This can cause additional distress and often a feeling of injustice.
There is then the issue of seeking compensation for the injuries suffered. The only option for a claimant is to make an application to the MIB under the untraced agreement. The claimant immediately faces the proposition of having to make a significant contribution towards their own legal costs. The 2003 Untraced Agreement stipulates the payments made in respect of legal costs. If a claimant receives an award under £150,000 then the payment towards costs is limited to 15% of compensation paid, with a minimum of £500 and a maximum of £3,000. Any awards over £150,000 attract a payment in respect of costs amounting to 2% of the overall award.
The MIB will consider payment of disbursements but they have to be agreed in advance. They will not entertain paying a barrister’s fees unless the claimant lacks mental capacity.
The payments on costs especially in cases involving catastrophic injuries are never sufficient. It generally means claimants have to fund their cases using contingency fee agreements whereby they have to make a contribution towards their legal costs. If a case is complicated and requires a barrister’s involvement then the claimant will have to pay those fees as well.
The cost implications do not end there. If a claimant is unhappy with a decision on liability or an award of damages, then there is a right of appeal which must be submitted within 6 weeks of the MIB’s decision. The case is then reviewed by an independent arbitrator. If the arbitrator finds against a claimant then they have the discretion to order them to pay the costs of the appeal. A claimant has to balance the risk carefully before making a decision to appeal.
I always have to have a frank and open discussion with my clients from the outset so they understand their potential cost liabilities. I have never had a client (yet) who want to go it alone with the MIB. In my experience the cases need careful and skilful handling to ensure the best possible awards with little costs liability.