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Accidents Abroad and Uninsured Drivers – How should Damages be decided?

The Supreme Court has handed down its judgment in the case of Moreno v The Motor Insurers Bureau. This was an appeal direct to the Supreme Court from the Court of Appeal.

Road Traffic Accident Claim

The case involved a road traffic accident claim on a Greek Island where the Claimant (now aged 30) had been injured by an uninsured driver. It was an accident leading to amputation of one of the Claimant’s legs through the tibia and in terms of damages one of the key elements was future prosthetic provision which was likely to be considerable.

The issue for consideration by the Supreme Court was whether, where someone is injured by an uninsured driver, the scope of liability for the Motor Insurers’ Bureau was to be decided in accordance with the law of England and Wales or the EU member state where the accident occurred.

In many cases, this will be of significance where there is a difference in the way in which damages awards are assessed between member states. However, the issue generally arises in a limited number of claims as the level of damages for claims involving an insured driver will be dealt with by the law of the EU country where the injury arose.

EU Law

This case is complex because of the interpretation placed on EU Law including Directives. Here the judges looking at the case in the High Court and Supreme Court had to look carefully at the way in which various European Directives interacted. Their final decision was that the governing law for determining damages was the law of the country where the damage arose.

The reason the case came before the highest court in the land was that there had been two previous judgements which based damages on UK law where the injury was caused abroad by an uninsured motorist – Jacobs v MIB [2010EWCA Civ 1208 [2011] 1 All ER 844 and Bloy and Ireson v MIB [2013] EWCA Civ 1543

Stephen Trump, Catastrophic Injury Partner at Clarke Willmott said:

This is a really important case, evidenced by the way the High Court leapfrogged the case straight to the Supreme Court in 2015. While it only affects a minority of cases, for the most seriously injured Claimants in particular, the decision provides important clarification of how damages should be decided in this area of law when the driver is uninsured. For cases involving Prosthetics which I have dealt with over the years damages can be substantial.’