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Consumer Rights: 'I was injured in a car accident but the other driver has disappeared'

A motorist who suffered whiplash should report collision to the police, so they can trace the second owner for his insurance details

Q: I was driving home about three weeks ago when a man drove out of a side road and hit me. Neither of us was going very fast and we were both fine at the time apart from being a bit shocked. We exchanged numbers and addresses.

He said he didn't have details of his insurance company on him but not to worry because he was fully comprehensively insured. I only have third-party insurance.

Now I'm getting worried because I have whiplash. Unfortunately I braked. By braking the doctor says I suffered more from the impact and the car is a complete mess.

I've tried calling and even writing to the man but I haven't had a response. Where do I go from here?

LT, Antrim

A: Did you take the other driver's registration number? Often in these situations it's the most obvious details we forget to take. You should have called the police at the time to report the accident, even if they didn't come out to the scene. Do it now and give as much detail as you can.

They should be able to trace the driver through the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency in Swansea.

Presumably you have been in touch with your own insurance company? You may only be insured to cover the third party in an accident so your company won't pay for the damage to your car or your injury, but it needs to know what has happened and can help you. It may be able to find the driver's insurer.

There could be several reasons why the other driver isn't answering your calls and letters. Do you know if the address he gave you exists? He may not be insured or be trying to avoid having a claim made against him for some other reason.

Do a bit of detective work. If possible drive to the address and check whether he really lives there. If it's too far away check online whether the address exists and see if you can find him at that address on the electoral register.

I suspect you have fallen foul of an uninsured driver. If that's the case you could make a claim against him through the courts for the damage to the car and an amount for your injury but only if you can find him. If the details he has given are false that won't be possible but you may be able to claim from the Motor Insurers' Bureau (MIB).

To make a claim you will need to gather as much evidence as you can about the losses you want to claim for – any quotes you have had about the amount it will take to repair your car, letters from your doctor about your whiplash and any details of time off work and lost earnings. Start your claim as soon as possible.

The MIB can arrange to have your car inspected by an independent valuer if necessary. You'll find more information atmib.org.uk If you get stuck call your local advice agency for help and possibly a free appointment with a solicitor.


Q: I ordered an item for my mother from an ad in her newspaper. It was a buy-one-get-one-free offer but only one arrived. I've called the company several times, they apologise and promise to send the second item but it never arrives and now I can't get a reply. How do I get this resolved?

MM, Devon

A: Shops, the Newspapers' Safe Home Ordering Protection Scheme, gives readers compensation for problems with goods bought in direct response to ads in member newspapers. Check that your mum's newspaper is a member of Shops, gather your proof that you bought through an ad in the publication and contact the newspaper. The claim has to be made within three months.


Q: I usually buy vouchers and gift cards for my nieces, nephews and friends' children for Christmas and I have in the past bought the older ones these from Comet. The news about the company recently made me think that those presents and my money would be lost if a company went bust so now I'm not sure what to do. What do you suggest?

FW, by email

A: If you have a voucher or gift card with a retailer that goes bust you are a creditor and one of a long line of people owed money. It's up to the administrator brought in to deal with winding up the company whether it honours the vouchers. There is no legal obligation to do so and in most cases there isn't enough money anyway.

But you can buy cards that allow your friends and relatives to shop in more than one store – so if one goes bust there are other options. Another option is to go for one of the bigger stores that are highly unlikely to fold such as the big supermarkets. Most of them have online gift cards.