The UK Supreme Court and cross-border accidents
On 3 August 2016, the UK Supreme Court delivered its judgment in Moreno v The Motor Insurers’ Bureau,  UKSC 52.
The facts were the following. On 17 May 2011, Ms Tiffany Moreno, a United Kingdom resident, was on holiday in Greece. Walking along the verge of a road, she was struck from behind by a vehicle registered in Greece driven by a Ms Kristina Beqiri. Ms Beqiri had neither a valid driving licence nor it appears any insurance and is admitted to have been responsible for the accident. Sadly, Ms Moreno suffered very serious injuries, which included loss of her right leg requiring her to use a wheelchair, continuing pain and psychological reaction, as well as loss of earnings.
Ms Moreno’s claim is against the Motor Insurers’ Bureau of the United Kingdom (the “UK MIB”). That it can be pursued against the UK MIB is the result of a series of Council Directives of the EEC culminating in a codified Sixth Directive 2009/103/EC of 16 September 2009. These Directives are in part transposed into English law by The Motor Vehicles (Compulsory Insurance) (Information Centre and Compensation Body) Regulations 2003 (SI 2003/37) (“the 2003 Regulations”). The 2003 Regulations were enacted prior to the codifying Sixth Directive and therefore refer to the earlier Directives. 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 Union and to facilitate their recovery of such compensation.
In the present case, the effect of the arrangements is that Ms Moreno is entitled to pursue the UK MIB, rather than pursue Ms Beqiri or search for some (evidently non-existent) insurer of Ms Beqiri or pursue the Greek body responsible for providing compensation in respect of uninsured vehicles involved in Greek accidents. Under the Sixth Directive the UK MIB will, once it has compensated Ms Moreno, be able to claim reimbursement from the Greek compensation body, which will in turn be subrogated to Ms Moreno’s rights against Ms Beqiri.
The question faced by the UK Supreme Court was the following: “The issue is […] whether the scope of the UK MIB’s liability to Ms Moreno is be measured according to English or Greek law”. The question arises from Ms Moreno’s concern that Greek law would yield a lesser measure of compensation than English law. It is accepted however that in other contexts the reverse might be the case. There is, for example, evidence that Irish personal injuries’ damages can be significantly higher than English, and that Italian law can in fatal accident cases award significantly more (and, if relevant, to a broader range of persons) than English law.
Lord Mance, with whom Lord Clarke, Lord Sumption, Lord Toulson and Lord Hodge agree, drafted the decision. He concluded that “the scheme of the Directives is clear, and that they do not leave it to individual member states to provide for compensation in accordance with any law that such states may choose. On the contrary, they proceed on the basis that a victim’s entitlement to compensation will be measured on a consistent basis, by reference to the law of the state of the accident, whichever of the routes to recovery provided by the Directives he or she invokes. In consequence, it also makes no difference to the measure of liability of the body or person ultimately responsible, which route is chosen”. He adds that the matter is clear and therefore that no reference to the Court of Justice is necessary.
(Altalex, 21 November 2016. Article by Emmanuel Guinchard)