Uninsured drivers on private land
Posted: 2nd October 2018
If people are injured by uninsured drivers on private land, are they entitled to compensation? In a landmark decision, the High Court has answered that question with a resounding yes.
The case concerned a pedestrian who was walking across a private field when he was struck and catastrophically injured by an uninsured 4x4 vehicle. The driver had proceeded from a public road onto a footpath, before ploughing through a barbed wire fence into the field and colliding with him. He suffered a broken neck and was left quadriplegic.
He launched proceedings against the Motor Insurers' Bureau (MIB), an industry body which, by virtue of the Uninsured Drivers Agreement 1999, compensates those who are injured by uninsured drivers. The MIB accepted that the driver was fully liable for the accident. However, it argued that it had no liability to compensate the pedestrian because the accident had neither been caused by, nor arisen from, the use of a vehicle on a road or other public place, within the meaning of Section 145 of the Road Traffic Act 1988.
In ruling on the matter, the Court rejected arguments put forward by the man’s lawyers that the driver’s use of the vehicle on the public road, before he entered the field, was sufficient to meet the statutory test. Their plea that the Act should be interpreted in a manner that rendered the MIB liable also fell on fallow ground. Such an interpretation would go against the grain and thrust of the legislation.
The pedestrian, however, won the argument under European law. The Court found that Directive 2009/103/EC created a directly effective, precise and unconditional obligation on the UK government to ensure compulsory insurance of motor vehicles, including those used on private land. The Court also broke new legal ground in ruling that the MIB is an emanation of the state, and that the Directive is therefore enforceable against it.
The decision meant that the MIB was obliged to pay the pedestrian at least Euros 1 million in compensation, that being the minimum level of cover required, per victim, by the Directive in respect of personal injury. The Court would hear further argument as to whether the European principle of equivalence required that cover to be unlimited.