Christina holds the women’s record for cycling from Land’s End to John O’Groats in 51 hours and five minutes and the NC500 Women’s record in under 37 hours. This year, she won the National 12 Hour Time Trial championship, riding a staggering 263 miles and in August, I had the privilege of pressing the stopwatch on her becoming the Scottish National Champion for a 100-mile time trial.
However, on a training ride in Stirlingshire, Christina was struck by a car pulling a trailer. Horrifyingly, the driver did not stop. Christina suffered a broken pelvis and Police Scotland are seeking witnesses that might help identify the driver involved.
Whilst I hope that the driver is identified and brought to justice, as a specialist personal injury lawyer, I cannot help but wonder about the financial implications of an injury like this. Serious injuries can leave someone unable to work and suffer financial loss, together with significant rehabilitation and care needs, not to mention the cost of replacing expensive cycling equipment. If the driver, and therefore their insurers, cannot be identified – what happens to someone’s right to claim compensation?
The Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB) was founded in 1946 as a private company limited by guarantee to provide compensation to injured victims of uninsured and untraced drivers. In a "hit and run” situation, where the driver and vehicle cannot be identified, then an injured person can claim for compensation from the MIB which steps in as a fund of last resort. In certain instances, for untraced drivers, there are some limitations as to what can be claimed by a person not suffering from “significant personal injury” as defined by the scheme. However, in all other circumstances, the MIB acts as if it was the insurer for the unknown vehicle.
As well as “hit and run” incidents, the MIB also covers more unexpected circumstances. For example, if a road user is involved in an incident caused by a diesel spillage on the road where it can be proven that the spillage was likely to have come from another vehicle, whose identity is unknown, we can use the MIB scheme to seek compensation for injuries.
This is on the basis that the untraced driver whose vehicle spilled diesel on the road surface, was negligent in allowing the spillage to occur. I recently represented a cyclist on a shared path, injured due to a mangled metal fence protruding on to the path. This likely happened due to a vehicle negligently colliding with the fence. We successfully recovered compensation for our client from the MIB for his injuries and losses, even though we did not know the identity of the negligent driver.
The MIB is vitally important in allowing access to compensation for those injured due to the negligence of drivers. It is appropriate that there is a fund of last resort for those injured by drivers who fail in their duty to stop after an incident or to have insurance.
In the UK, compulsory insurance is required for both motorists and also employers. However, whilst the motor industry has a scheme to back up injured road users, no similar scheme exists for employees where their employer has no valid liability insurance.
Where does the money come from? The MIB is funded by the motor insurance industry and therefore ultimately, from the premiums paid by law-abiding motorists.
Despite my support for the MIB in principle, I do have some criticisms. The MIB is underfunded and understaffed. Claims are slow to be resolved and, in my experience, take three times longer compared to dealing with an insurer where the driver is traced. For claims under the "untraced driver scheme”, where there is no one to sue, I have no option but to allow the MIB to take their time investigating and reaching a conclusion. The decisions of the MIB can be appealed to an independent Arbiter, whose decision can take up to a year. It’s frustrating for me as a lawyer and for our clients who deserve early resolution.
My advice to road users, injured under such sorry circumstances, is to ensure the incident is reported and recorded by the police and to consult with a specialist solicitor as soon as possible.
Roz Boynton is an Associate Solicitor, Cycle Law Scotland