Can I make an injury claim if I don’t know who's to blame?

injured woman unsure of who is to blame

If you have been injured as a result of someone else's actions or negligence, you have the legal right to claim compensation. But what happens if you don’t know who to claim against?

What happened?

The claims process will vary depending on how your injury happened. Click the icons below to learn more:

What do we mean by 'to blame'?

Establishing who is legally to blame (liable) for an injury may be more complicated than simply knowing the identity of the other party involved in the accident.

If you decide to pursue a compensation claim, your solicitor will need to be able to demonstrate that the other party owed you a duty of care.

It must also be established that the actions or negligence of the other party caused your accident, and that your injuries were sustained as a direct result of the accident (causation).

Identifying the defendant

The first thing your solicitor must do is identify the person or organisation that is (or may be) liable for your injury (the 'defendant')

In the majority of injury cases, it will be clear who is to blame. If you are injured at work, for example, your employer will probably be the defendant. If you were involved in a car crash, it will most likely be the other driver.

However, there are occasions when the identity of the party at fault is not immediately apparent or clear cut. For example if you were:

  • in a hit-and-run accident
  • a self-employed worker
  • diagnosed with an industrial disease years after exposure
  • injured in a car crash when not wearing a seatbelt
  • injured on public land

Personal injury solicitors are experts at ascertaining who is liable for an injury in any given circumstance. Your solicitor will carry out the necessary research to identify the defendant and, if possible, the defendant's insurance company.

The solicitor will then send a formal 'letter of claim' to the defendant.

I don’t know who was to blame - can I still start a claim?

Yes. You may not know who is liable for your injury but that should not deter you from seeking legal advice.

If you don't know who caused your injuries, starting a claim as soon as possible is important. Greater reliance will be placed on eyewitness accounts. The closer these witness accounts are to the date of the accident, the more reliable they will be (especially if your case goes to court).

Once you have started your claim, your solicitor will work with you to build an accurate picture of the circumstances surrounding your injury or illness. This process will involve a detailed discussion and completion of various forms.

To identify the defendant and build the most robust possible case, your solicitor will gather evidence from all potential sources, including police reports, eye witness accounts, CCTV recordings, accident reports, and so on.

Once the party at fault has been identified, your case can then proceed.

If following the evidence discovery phase, it is still uncertain as to who is liable for your injuries, it may still be possible to make a claim.

What happens if the solicitor cannot identify who is to blame?

Making a successful claim when liability cannot be ascertained will depend on the context of the injury:

Type of InjuryProcess if a defendant is not identified
Untraceable driver/Hit and run road accident

If you were injured by another driver who fled the scene, a claim could be pursued through the Motor Insurers' Bureau (MIB).

The MIB is an independent body that pays road accident compensation to the victims of uninsured or untraceable drivers. Contributions from car insurance premiums fund the MIB.

You can claim through the MIB as an injured car driver, motorcyclist, cyclist or pedestrian.

IMPORTANT - you must have reported the accident to the police within 14 days, or you will not be able to make a claim.

You can either claim directly through the MIB or ask your solicitor for assistance.

Read more:

Claiming compensation through the MIB

Criminal injuries

If you are the victim of a violent crime, you may be able to claim compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA), even if the offender is not identified or convicted of the crime.

The CICA is a government agency that has the authority to pay compensation to the innocent victims of crime England, Wales or Scotland. The CICA is funded by public money. The agency pays out compensation claims regardless of whether the person who committed the crime is caught, prosecuted or convicted.

You can either claim directly through the CICA or ask your solicitor for assistance.

Read more:

Making a compensation claim through the CICA

Industrial diseaseIndustrial diseases are often contracted as a result of prolonged exposure which may span many employers. RSI and noise-induced hearing loss are common examples. In these cases, liability may be equally apportioned across all employers where you were exposed to adverse conditions.
Asbestos-related disease

In cases of asbestos-related disease, workers may have been at risk of exposure numerous times during their working life.

Legislation exists to compensate workers affected by asbestos exposure, and their families, in cases where it is not clear which company they were working for when the exposure occurred.

For example, you might have worked for three companies back-to-back where you were exposed to asbestos. In this example, it would be impossible to say, in isolation, which the company is responsible. Blame would be apportioned across all three companies and compensation paid by all 3 companies.

Public place accidents

If you were injured in a public place and the accident was not sustained in a work, road or criminal context, the owner of the land may be liable.

The solicitor will endeavour to identify the owner of the land and pursue a claim through them.

If you were assaulted in a public place, then a claim could be pursued through the CICA

Can I claim if I was partly responsible for an accident?

You may still be able to claim compensation even if you contributed to your accident or to your injuries.

However, if you were partly to blame (known as 'contributory negligence'), your compensation may be reduced and it may be more difficult to prove liability.

Read more:

Can I claim compensation if I was partly responsible for an accident?

Can I claim injury compensation if it was 'just' an accident?

People might not claim for an injury they think was an accident. Legally speaking, accidents are rare, and a claim may be possible in any event.

Read more:

Can I claim injury compensation if it was an accident?

Eligibility to claim

You should be eligible to claim compensation if you sustained an injury or illness:

  • in the last 3 years, and;
  • someone else was to blame, and;
  • that person owed you a duty of care.
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What happened?

The claims process will vary depending on how your injury happened. Click the icons below to learn more:

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Howard Willis, Personal injury solicitor

Howard Willis, Personal injury solicitor