What if there is uncertainty as to who is to blame?

In order to check whether you have a claim, your solicitor must prove that another party is legally responsible for the accident, and for injuries.

Determining legal responsibility for an accident is usually straightforward.

  • When a negligent driver crashes into the rear of your stationary vehicle, for example, the other driver would be responsible.
  • If you suffered an accident at work, your employer would normally be legally responsible, under the principle of vicarious liability.

What happens in cases where it is not clear who is responsible for an accident or injury?

These are two of the scenarios where there might be uncertainty:

  • Someone else caused the accident or injury, but their identity is unknown, for example a hit-and-run accident, or
  • The Claimant may be partly responsible for the accident or for their injuries, for example an injured driver who was not wearing a seatbelt.
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An unknown party caused the accident

In cases where a Claimant does not know who caused their injuries, it is still often possible to make a claim. Whether compensation is available can depend on the nature of the injuries and the type of incident that caused them.

A personal injury solicitor will be able to assist with finding the identity of the person responsible where possible. If it proves impossible to identify a Defendant, they will be able to confirm whether you can make a claim for compensation through another route.

In some cases, government bodies have been set up to provide access to compensation when the party responsible cannot be found.

For example, in the case of road accidents, the Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB) exists to compensate people injured by unknown and uninsured drivers.

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.

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The Claimant may be partly responsible

In some cases, the Claimant may be partly responsible for the accident, or could have done more to avoid an accident or reduce their injuries. This is referred to as 'contributory negligence'. In these cases, however, it is often still possible to make a claim.

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Contributory negligence

When contributory negligence exists, compensation may be reduced to reflect the degree to which the Claimant contributed to the accident.

For example, if it is determined that there is contributory negligence on the part of the Claimant to the extent that they were 50% responsible for a collision, they will be awarded 50% of the compensation that would be awarded otherwise.

Compensation may also be reduced if the Claimant could have done more to reduce their injuries. This can include wearing a helmet when cycling, wearing a seatbelt, or seeking appropriate medical care after an accident occurs.

A Claimant may not receive the full amount of compensation reflecting the current state of their injuries if they have not sought or followed medical advice and as a result their injuries have deteriorated.

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Contributory negligence and disputed liability

Lliability for an accident is more likely to be in dispute when contributory negligence exists.

Lliability may be denied by the Defendant or his solicitor; either immediately at the accident scene, following a formal letter of claim, or following the issue of proceedings.

If the Defendant's solicitor raises a strong defence, which is likely to be upheld in Court, the Claimant's solicitor may advise the claim be closed. Professional legal advise should always be sought before deciding whether to pursue or abandon a claim.

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Making a claim where there is uncertainty

Whether the other side's identity is unknown, or there is contributory negligence, it is often still possible to make a claim. To learn more about your options, contact Quittance on 0800 612 7456 or request a callback online.

Gaynor Haliday, Legal researcher

About the author

Gaynor Haliday is an experienced legal researcher and published author. She has had numerous articles published in the press and is a legal industry commentator.

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