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MIB liable for accidents on private land

MIB liable for accidents on private land

The Motor Insurance Bureau (MIB) is liable for accidents on private land involving uninsured vehicles, the Supreme Court held.

The landmark decision in MIB v Lewis (13 February) followed an accident in 2013 in which a farmer drove an uninsured 4X4 vehicle at the claimant who was walking in a private field. 

The claimant was left with tetraplegia and permanent brain damage.

His compensation claim involved the MIB as the farmer had insufficient funds to meet the compensation claim.

The MIB did not deny the driver was at fault. However, it denied liability on grounds that as the accident occurred on private land it was not covered under the Uninsured Drivers Agreement 1999 – because the accident and injuries were not caused by a vehicle on a road/other public place under section 145 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (RTA).

The Supreme Court upheld the ruling of Mr Justice Soole in the High Court that the claimant had a right to be compensated, whether or not the vehicle was on private land.

However, as this right was not covered by the RTA, it was directly effective and enforceable against the MIB under Article 3 of the EU’s Motor Insurance Directive.

This meant the MIB, as ‘an emanation of the state’, was compelled as the designated compensation body to meet compensation claims in such circumstances.

The Supreme Court refused the MIB’s application for a reference to the European Court of Justice.

Mark Hemsted, a Forum of Insurance Lawyers member and a partner at Clyde & Co commented: “This decision reiterates the extension of the obligations of the MIB beyond those within the RTA and within its own Articles of Association.”

He said the MIB may seek to challenge the government into amending the RTA.

“In the continued absence of any indication that the government intends on amending the RTA, it would be unsurprising if the MIB does not make efforts to amend its Articles to reflect the changes brought about this decision”, Hemsted added.

The issues could be resolved by amending the RTA itself, as noted by the Court of Appeal on the MIB’s first unsuccessful appeal.

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