Recent court ruling means victims of road traffic accidents which occur on private land can now claim compensation from the Motor Insurers Bureau
The Motor Insurers Bureau exists to provide a safety net for the victims of road traffic accidents where the driver at fault is not insured or cannot be traced. It ensures that even in these circumstances compensation can be claimed for death and personal injury and in some cases property damage.
Until recently it was thought that a claim against the Bureau could only be made following an accident on a road or other public place. However, the Court of Appeal has now confirmed in the case of Motor Insurers Bureau v Michael Lewis that this is wrong and a claim can also be made for accidents occurring on private land.
The case of Michael Lewis
Mr Lewis suffered severe spinal cord injuries in 2013 when he was hit by a 4 x 4 while walking across private land in Lincolnshire. The driver of the 4 x 4 was a local farmer who had deliberately pursued Mr Lewis because he wrongly believed he had been up to no good. The injuries caused by the collision left Mr Lewis tetraplegic and in need of lifelong care.
The 4 x 4 was not insured so a claim for compensation was made against the Motor Insurers Bureau. However, this was defended on the basis that, pursuant to the Road Traffic Act 1988 and the Uninsured Drivers Agreement 1999, the Bureau was only obliged to cover claims arising out of road traffic accidents occurring on a road or other public place.
Mr Lewis disputed this and said that the Bureau was also liable to pay personal injuries compensation for road traffic accidents occurring on private land by virtue of European Motor Insurance Directive 2009/103/EC which the UK government had agreed to implement.
What did the court decide?
The court agreed with Mr Lewis, the Bureau did have to pay out on claims for road traffic accidents occurring on private land. The reasons for this are complex but in simple terms:
- the 2009 European Directive obliged the UK to make it compulsory for all vehicle drivers to take out insurance against the risk of an accident occurring on public or private land which may result in death, personal injury or property damage;
- the Directive also obliged the UK to appoint a designated body to establish a backup fund to settle compensation claims for accidents on public or private land involving uninsured or untraced drivers;
- the UK failed to implement the Directive properly because under the terms of the Road Traffic Act insurance is only compulsory for vehicles used on a road or other public place and the order designating the Motor Insurers Bureau to set up and administer a backup fund only applies to public accident claims;
- as the provisions of the Directive are clear and unconditional they have direct effect in the UK, meaning that the court was obliged to apply the Directive when assessing Mr Lewis’s claim;
- while it was the government that was at fault, it was the Motor Insurers Bureau who would now be liable to pay Mr Lewis compensation on the basis that, by appointing the Bureau to deal with the backup fund, the government had effectively delegated responsibility for ensuring the fund was operated in accordance with the requirements of the Directive, i.e. by paying out on both public and private land accidents.
What the decision means
As things currently stand, the decision in this case means that anyone hit by an uninsured or untraced driver while on private land can now ask the Motor Insurers Bureau to pay them compensation. This applies whether you are hit as a pedestrian, a cyclist or motorcyclist or the driver of another vehicle. It also applies where you are a relative whose loved one has been injured or killed following a private land car crash or other collision.
However, there is a note of caution because the Bureau have indicated an intention to appeal the decision. We understand that this is on the basis that:
- the Bureau was not set up to meet private land accident claims;
- the Court of Appeal was wrong to impose European law on the Bureau when the obligation to comply with the Directive rests with the UK government; and
- if any liability to settle private land accident claims exists it must rest with the government, at least until such time as the scope of the Bureau’s remit is formally extended and extra funding secured to meet its enhanced obligations.
The appeal may or may not be successful but in our view the eventual outcome will be the same: namely that at some point the Road Traffic Act and the Uninsured Drivers Agreement 1999 will be amended to bring them in line with European law and that as a result of this it will soon be compulsory for off-road vehicles to be insured in much the same way as on-road vehicles and for claims arising out of road traffic accidents on both public and private property to be covered by the backup compensation fund.
Have you been affected by a road traffic accident?
If you or a loved one have been injured in a road traffic accident in the last three years and wish to claim compensation, please contact one of our personal injury lawyers to see how we can help.
Depending on the nature of the accident and the severity of your injuries or those of your relative, we may be able to assist in recovering compensation for:
- pain and suffering;
- medical bills or funeral costs;
- out of pocket expenses;
- loss of income or other financial support;
- future care needs; and
- property damage.
To arrange a free claims assessment, please call our lawyers in Crewe on 0800 1956412 or email Step Legal Solicitors at firstname.lastname@example.org.