March 22, 2016

Motor Insurance - Howe v Motor Insurers’ Bureau (High Court)

Judge decides whether MIB only liable if equivalent EU body is liable

The English claimant was injured in a road traffic accident in France in March 2007. The French authorities were unable to identify the driver of the other vehicle. The fourth Motor Directive provides that a victim who suffers an accident in a Member State other than his home Member State can make a claim in his own Member State. Article 6 of that directive requires every Member State to establish a compensation body (which is the Motor Insurers' Bureau ("MIB") in the UK and the Fonds de Garantie ("FDG") in France). Article 7 of the same directive provides that where there is an unidentified vehicle and unidentified insurer, the injured party can apply for compensation from the compensation body in the Member State where he resides (which can then claim against the compensatory body where the accident took place).

The 2003 Regulations were brought in by the UK to comply with the fourth Directive requirements. Regulation 13(2)(b) provides that "the compensation body shall compensate the injured party….as if it were the body authorised under paragraph 4 of [Article 1 of the second Motor Directive] and the accident had occurred in Great Britain". Of issue in this case was whether MIB had to compensate the injured party as if it was FDG or as if it was MIB. In other words, is MIB only liable to compensate the injured party if FDG is also liable.

Stewart J concluded that he was bound by earlier caselaw to find that MIB's liability to compensate the claimant under the 2003 Regulations was not dependent on the claimant establishing that FDG was liable to compensate him.

Although not required to do so, he found that the claim was time-barred under French law. He also found that the claim was time-barred under the 2003 Regulations. Nor could the claimant rely on estoppel or waiver on the basis that MIB had made certain interim payments. That did not amount to an unambiguous promise that MIB would not enforce its strict legal rights.