Ensure you’re insured

Two drivers exchanging insurance details.
Two drivers exchanging insurance details.

So you’re driving back from a fun, sunshine-filled day out, and with the relaxed buzz of chatter coming from family members in the back of the car, you’re almost home.

Suddenly, this peaceful journey is interrupted by a loud crash, and everyone is forcefully shunted forwards as another driver hits you from behind.

Dazed by what’s just happened, you pull over into a safe place where insurance details can be swapped.

But panic sets in as you realise that instead of following, the other driver has simply vanished back into the flow of traffic, never to be seen again.

So what happens next in this tale? Well I should know, because it happened to me.

It was the first chapter in how a motorist recoups their losses if they are the victim of a “hit and run” smash or the other driver is uninsured.

Drivers with no insurance or who can’t be traced are a menace to all law-abiding road users.

Not only do they push up the costs for all motorists by adding to the premiums that everyone pays, but they injure some 26,500 people every year and kill around 130.

If you find yourself in a situation like this, don’t delay in telling the police as well as your insurer.

Try to get down as much evidence as possible, including descriptions of the other vehicle and its occupants and names and contact details of any witnesses. Photos may also help, which is where a mobile phone camera could prove useful.

You’re also likely to end up needing the help of a body called the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB), which acts as a financial safety net for innocent motorists.

The MIB was set up in 1946 as a not-for-profit body funded by the insurance industry - and ultimately the insurance policies of all drivers.

Under an agreement with the UK Government, the MIB acts as a lifeline for innocent motorists when the perpetrators are uninsured or can’t be traced.

Paul Ryman-Tubb, head of technical at the MIB, explains: “Our role is to pick up the claim when there is no one else to pay.”

Just like making a more “normal” claim where the driver who caused the accident is insured, the MIB will consider detriment such as personal injury, damage to property and loss of earnings.

Mr Ryman-Tubb says: “We will deal with all of this and compensate you, provided we accept that the uninsured driver is at fault.”

The compensation process is likely to take a similar length of time for victims as if the other party involved was insured, although it can take longer if there are aspects which need further investigation, such as a dispute over who owns the other vehicle.

But the MIB’s provision of compensation for victims doesn’t mean uninsured drivers simply get off the hook.

Not only can they face fines, points on their licence and possible disqualification, but the MIB will pursue uninsured drivers, through the courts if necessary, to claw back the financial losses they have caused.

The MIB also plays a vital role in preventing cases like these happening in the first place. It works with bodies including the police, the DVLA and the government to take uninsured drivers off the road.

One big change came from a new power handed to police in 2005, enabling them to seize uninsured vehicles. The MIB provides the police with information extracted from the Motor Insurance Database (MID) of 38 million policy records to have this at their fingertips.

Around 2,000 vehicles are now seized like this every week, many of which end up being sold or crushed if the owner can’t prove they have insurance.

Meanwhile, 15,000 letters a week are being sent out to people suspected of keeping a vehicle without insurance.

These initiatives have helped to dramatically cut the number of uninsured vehicles on the road, from around two million in the early 2000s to one million now.

In a further reflection of the success of these clampdowns, the number of claims the MIB receives from victims of such accidents has also almost halved, from about 38,000 in 2005 to just over 22,000 last year.

The crash in which I was involved happened some time ago. With my incident having been investigated and resolved, I’ve seen an end to my own personal saga, to my great relief.

And with more motorists who flout the law being stopped in their tracks, it’s also reassuring to know that the chances of being hit by an uninsured driver are diminishing for everyone.