The Court of Appeal has upheld a ruling that the Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB) has to pay compensation to a man injured by an uninsured vehicle, even though it was on private land.
Michael Lewis, 73, suffered severe spinal cord injuries when he was chased across private land, while on foot, by the land owner, who was driving a 4×4 Nissan Terrano.
The incident left him a tetraplegic and in need of permanent ongoing care. As the driver was uninsured, the MIB acted as the defendant.
At first instance, the MIB argued that its liability was limited because the Road Traffic Act 1998 and Uninsured Drivers Agreement 1999 only applied to injuries caused by a vehicle on a road or other public place.
But Mr Justice Soole agreed with the claimant that the European Court of Justice’s 2016 decision in Vnuk and subsequent decisions made it clear that a 2009 EU directive required compulsory insurance for vehicles on private land.
He went on to find that this should apply directly against the MIB as it was an ‘emanation of the state’, even though it was a private law body that contracted with the government to provide its service.
Giving the ruling of the Court of Appeal, Lord Justice Flaux said: “The UK government has failed to fulfil its obligation under article 3 of the 2009 directive to ensure that civil liability in respect of the use of motor vehicles on private land is the subject of a scheme of compulsory motor insurance.
“That the government is under that obligation in respect of the use of vehicles on private land cannot be doubted in view of the judgment of the CJEU in Vnuk and [subsequent CJEU judgments].
“The government has also failed to comply with its co-extensive obligation under article 10 to assign responsibility for meeting that liability to the compensation body contemplated by that article.” This was the MIB, Flaux LJ said.
Mr Lewis’s solicitor, David Gauler of Thompsons, said the ruling was “a logical extension and opens the door to others injured in similar circumstances to claim compensation”.
He added: “The MIB will still be able to exclude claimants under the untraced scheme if they deem that they have not fully co-operated with the police, and there are additional mandatory reporting requirements on victims which aren’t necessary in a standard insurance claim, but by this decision the Court of Appeal has shut off their rejecting claims from those injured on private land.
“It has also provided a potential legal mechanism to challenge those other exclusions, by relying on the EU directive to force the MIB to comply with their obligation to compensate the victims of motor accidents.
“Given its reliance on EU law, this ruling could be lost if we leave the European Union. This positive change for victims will be under threat, along with other EU-led advancements in personal injury law, if Brexit happens.”
Weightmans acted for the MIB.
Mark Walsh, a partner at fellow insurance law firm Kennedys, commented: “The Court of Appeal has made clear what most in the motor claims arena have felt was the case for some time, that the requirements of the Road Traffic Act 1998 are not compatible with the UK’s wider obligations under EU law…
“We can expect the MIB to move swiftly to amend its rules to ensure that it can pass on such liabilities if there is an insurer that has issued a policy on the motor vehicle involved.”