Claiming Compensation for Accidents Abroad with Uninsured Drivers

3 August 2016

Being involved in an accident abroad caused by someone else is obviously something we all hope to avoid. Yet should the worst happen, we’re lucky that an overriding principle of personal injury law is that no innocent person involved in a road traffic accident should go uncompensated. This applies to accidents that occur anywhere in the EU (which we’re still in for the time being…) – if we’re abroad and unlucky enough to be injured in a car crash caused by an uninsured driver, we can claim compensation from the UK’s compensation body, the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB). But how is the amount of compensation we’re entitled to determined? The UKSC recently addressed this very issue in its judgment Moreno v The Motor Insurers’ Bureau [2016] UKSC 52.

Choosing the right law

Ms Moreno was on holiday in Greece, walking on the verge of a road, when she was hit by a car driven by an uninsured driver. She had to have her right leg amputated and continued to suffer physical and psychological pain, as well as loss of earnings. As is her right under EU law (as transposed into UK law), when she returned to the UK, she brought a claim against the MIB for compensation, rather than having to pursue the uninsured driver in Greece.

Although the MIB accepted its liability to Ms Moreno, the parties couldn’t agree how damages should be determined. Ms Moreno was concerned that if Greek law applied, she wouldn’t be able to recover as much compensation as she would be entitled to under English law. The MIB, on the other hand, claimed that the same should apply for both insured as well as uninsured drivers who cause an accident, which is that the law of the place where the accident occurred should determine the level of damages.

The UKSC agreed with the MIB that the law of the state of the accident should govern liability and the measure of compensation. Amongst other things, the court held that:

  • ‘a victim’s entitlement to compensation will be measured on a consistent basis, by reference to the law of the state of the accident...the scheme of the [Motor Insurance] Directives is to provide a consistent measure of compensation, whatever the route to recovery taken by the victim’; and,
  • there was no distinction ‘between liability and heads of damage on the one hand and measure of compensation on the other’.

As such, the scope of the MIB’s liability to Ms Moreno was to be determined in accordance with the law of Greece.

What impact with Brexit have?

As Lord Mance noted, the ‘constant aim’ of the current scheme ‘has been to improve the prospects and ease with which injured parties can recover the compensation to which they are “entitled” in respect of any loss or damage caused by vehicles”. Amongst other things, it gives victims of motor accidents occurring abroad:

  • A direct right of action against any insurer;
  • A right to have a local claims representative of such insurers in their own country to handle and settle their claims; or,
  • A right to look to a compensation body in their own state (i.e. the MIB in the UK) if an insurer fails to provide a reasoned reply to the claim, to appoint a claims representative there or if the accident is caused by an uninsured or unidentified vehicle.

Yet this scheme for ensuring that compensation is available, and recoverable, for victims of motor accidents abroad, which comes from EU law, ‘will, no doubt, be one of the many current arrangements requiring thought’ following Brexit. It’s vital that the rights of accident victims, such as these, aren’t diminished or undermined by vested and corporate interests when the time comes to attempt the (almost impossible) task of untangling the UK’s law from that of the EU.

Conway Accident Law Practice – Specialist Personal Injury Solicitors

Led by highly-respected Solicitor Advocate and Scottish Co-ordinator of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) Ronnie Conway, we have proven expertise helping car accident victims protect and enforce their rights. Not only have we helped thousands of clients receive millions in compensation, we have also championed the rights of victims before the Justice Committee and helped shaped personal injury law in high profile personal injury actions.

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