The Motor Insurers' Bureau (MIB) has secured a landmark victory which changes the applicable law for UK claimants injured by uninsured drivers abroad. The decision means the MIB is only liable to pay damages that a victim would be entitled to recover in the state of the accident.
The claimant, Ms Moreno, sustained serious injuries in a road traffic accident in Greece. Her solicitors issued proceedings against the MIB and the High Court ruled that she should be compensated under the law of England and Wales, in line with two previous Court of Appeal rulings. The case was then leapfrogged to the Supreme Court to determine whether the MIB’s liability to Ms Moreno should be measured according to English or Greek law.
It was argued that the claimant would be unfairly prejudiced if Greek law were to apply. However, in reaching its decision, the Supreme Court noted that the reverse can also be true. For example, damages awards under Irish law may often be higher than those awarded in England and Wales and damages paid for a fatality under Italian law are also more generous. The court concluded that it needed to apply a consistent approach and that it was wrong to assume that damages would necessarily be higher under English law.
The role of the MIB is to act on behalf of its European equivalent, in this case the Greek Guarantee Fund (GGF), with regards to proceedings in the UK. Under the Sixth Directive, the MIB will, once it has compensated Ms Moreno, seek reimbursement from the GGF.
The judgment also made an interesting reference to the potential implications of Brexit for MIB claims involving foreign uninsured drivers: “The expressed and obviously beneficial purpose of the arrangements introduced by the Directives and Regulations is to ensure that compensation is available for victims of motor accidents occurring anywhere in the community and to facilitate their recovery of compensation. With British exit from the Union, this will, no doubt, be one of the many current arrangements requiring thought.”