Tight-lipped crash culprit escapes justice

Posted by Whealie
Feb 13, 2014 • Insurance, uninsuredNo Comments
Man and motorbike

Derek Szeto and his BMW 650GS

The Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB) took nearly a year to compensate Derek Szeto for his damaged bike after the uninsured car’s owner refused to name the driver.

Szeto’s parked BMW 650GS was hit by a Dodge Caliber on 28 January 2013. The car was uninsured and the registered owner, Mammi Doti, of 2A Belfast Road, Stoke Newington, refused to say who was driving.

She was charged under Section 172 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, as amended by Section 21 of the Road Traffic Act, 1991, for failing to nominate a driver.

She was convicted, without attending court, on 9 December 2013 (a previous hearing had been postponed). Doti was fined £600 and received six points on her licence. She was made to pay a victim surcharge of £60 and costs of £85.

Separately, although she got her car insured soon after knocking Szeto’s bike over, the DVLA also successfully prosecuted Doti for having a vehicle uninsured under the new Continuous Insurance Enforcement (CIE) rules. For that she was fined £200, with £110 costs.

The DVLA prosecutes under CIE but the police prosecute for uninsured driving. With no driver identified the police could not prosecute anyone for driving uninsured or for any other driving offences.

Deny

two cars parked very close together

Parked a bit close there aren’t we?

Doti had initially denied to the MIB causing the damage to Szeto’s bike while reversing into a parking space too small for her car. This was despite the evidence showing the damage and that the Caliber car had to have knocked the bike over to fit in the parking space (the car was almost bumper to bumper with the car in front (see photos).

For the MIB, this dispute meant they could not legally identify the vehicle that had caused the damage. The MIB, which pays out for uninsured and untraced drivers, has to identify the vehicle for a claim under its Untraced Driver agreement. This is to stop everyone who damages their own vehicle simply sticking in a claim that someone hit them and drove off.

If Doti had successfully presented a defence that it was not her car involved, there would have been no evidence of a vehicle involved, or of an untraced driver. Only the successful prosecution of Doti confirmed that her vehicle had been involved and that the driver was untraced.

Disconnect

The problem then was that the police didn’t keep the MIB informed about the case. The MIB knew there was a court case happening but were not told when, or of the outcome.

Car and motorbike

Doti’s car and the damaged bike

The police wrote to Szeto in a letter dated 20 December 2013, detailing the successful prosecution 11 days earlier. Szeto passed that to his legal advisor, Stephen Douglas from Rider Support Services (RSS), who contacted the MIB. The MIB finally sent Szeto a £1,900 cheque in mid-January 2014, almost a year after the damage had been done.

A Met Police official told The Zebra: “Whilst processing was completed within the statutory time limits, it is recognised that the delays have impacted on the MIB being in a position to consider this application for compensation.

“The Metropolitan Police Service works closely with the MIB in the timely supply of the police information and in this case I can confirm that subsequent to the return of the court file on 3 January 2014, the information was provided to the MIB on 14 January 2014.

“It is noted that whilst the court case was ongoing, regular updates were sent from police to the MIB. The statutory requirements do not allow the release of any police information until the case has been concluded at court.”

MIB

damaged bike

£1,900 of damage

Paul Ryman-Tubb, head of technical at the MIB, told The Zebra: “Whilst we do aim to deal with claims as quickly as possible, enquiries can unfortunately take time to complete and are sometimes reliant on other bodies, such as the police.

“It is also important that we examine cases carefully to ensure that we pay only those cases that meet the criteria of the agreement, remembering always that it is the premium-paying public who are ultimately paying the bill.”

Uninsured and untraced claims costs are funded by the rest of us who do pay our motor insurance – costing us about £40 a head each year.

Szeto was represented for free by RSS, even though there was no personal injury so no way the law firm could recover any costs. Szeto has nothing but praise for RSS, who told The Zebra they regularly work for free for bikers. Szeto was insured with Zenith through broker Carole Nash, but only third-party so had to pay his own repair costs until the settlement cam through.

Comment

Get out of jail free

Bike twisted

Smashed. Not just gently nudged over

Doti has got away with it. She has made the law a laughing stock. She might not have been driving but it is reasonable to assume she was. If she wasn’t, she knew who was. I put this to her in writing and gave her the chance to explain or correct me but she chose not to.

By refusing to say who was driving, Doti avoided prosecution for driving uninsured and for other driving offences, including failing to stop or failing to report collision. Driving uninsured would have resulted in her car being towed away and she would have struggled to find insurance afterwards. Her fines and costs (just over £1,000 in all) would have been higher and she’d have got more points on her licence – possibly a ban.

It seems failing to nominate the driver is a common ‘get out of jail free’ card. According to the Ministry of Justice there were 54,341 people convicted of that in 2012 alone.

Communication

The MIB, the police and the DVLA need to communicate better. The MIB sends out the insurance reminders on behalf of the DVLA but is not informed of prosecutions. The police work with the MIB on Operation Cubo, stopping uninsured drivers, but would not communicate the outcome of a court case direct to the MIB promptly or even at the same time as they wrote to the victim.

Prosecutions are a matter of public record with no need for secrecy and with no data protection issues. The DVLA and police should be sharing this information with the MIB. All should communicate to claimants and, if requested, the media. Their silence was as bad as Doti’s.

The MIB also made mistakes in its handling of the claim – initially trying to impose a £300 excess when this was abolished for these claims in 2011. It sent a standard letter that had not been upgraded since the change. The MIB’s website still, at the time of writing, referred to the £300 excess for all claims. The MIB needs to get these things right.

MIB website text

MIB says £300 excess applies

MIB website text

Yet again the MIB website says a £300 excess applies

Informing insurers

The MIB runs the Motor Insurance Database (MID) – the list of every vehicle and its insurer – but the MIB is not permitted to say who currently insures Doti’s Dodge Caliber. That means it is not possible to check that the insurer knows about Doti’s current convictions.

Doti may have told her insurer, as she is obliged to do, but she has been convicted of refusing to provide relevant information to the police already. It is likely that an insurer would refuse to insure Doti given her convictions, or would hike the premium.

The MIB is in possession of all the facts but is prevented from telling tell me and the current insurer. The MIB is not an anti-fraud unit in itself but it does administer for insurers the Insurance Fraud Bureau, which looks into crash for cash staged accidents and ghost brokers. The MIB should report the conviction information to Doti’s insurer.

The Association of British Insurers sent the following statement to The Zebra: “All insurance companies are constrained by the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA). The DPA protects an individual’s rights to privacy with regards to his or her personal data. It establishes a set of principles and conditions about the use and disclosure of personal data with which data controllers must comply. This means that neither an insurer nor the MIB can pass on information about any individual.

“The ABI is introducing the MyLicence scheme, which will enable the insurance industry to access certain driver licence data from the DVLA when an individual applies for motor insurance. This will be operational from the second quarter of this year; non-disclosure will be a great deal harder after this time.”

The problem with this is that, at the time Doti took out insurance she had no convictions, so the new system does not help an insurer find out about convictions after point of selling the policy.

Contacted but received no comment

  • Carole Nash
  • DVLA (confirmed prosecution only)
  • Mammi Doti
  • Zenith

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