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Ruling on Appropriate Legal System to Assess Damages

The Supreme Court has recently been called upon to decide which country’s laws should be followed when determining the appropriate level of compensation to be awarded where a British citizen is injured in an accident abroad.

Accident Abroad

The case concerned a UK resident, Ms Moreno, who was hit by a car whilst on holiday in Greece in 2011. She sustained serious injuries and had to have one leg amputated below the knee. The car was registered in Greece and had been driven by an uninsured driver. There was no dispute over the fact that the driver was responsible for the accident.

Compensation for Accidents Abroad

EU Directives provide arrangements to ensure that compensation is available for victims of motor accidents occurring anywhere in the European Union and to facilitate their recovery of such compensation.

Under the scheme, victims of a motor accident that occurs in one member state can in certain circumstances claim compensation directly from a body in their own member state of residence.  In the UK, the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB) is the designated body against which such claims can be made.

Ms Moreno was of the opinion that if her claim was decided under Greek law she would be entitled to less compensation than under the law of England and Wales, and therefore submitted a damages claim against the UK’s MIB. The MIB however claimed that Greek law should be used to determine the level of damages.

The case was heard by the High Court in England, where the Judge found in favour of Ms Moreno. However, the MIB appealed the decision and the case proceeded to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court Judges have now unanimously upheld the MIB’s appeal and ruled that Greek law should be used to determine the level of damages.

Role of MIB

An MIB spokesperson explained that MIB’s role as the UK Compensation Body has been to handle Ms Moreno’s claim and act on behalf of the Greek Guarantee Fund, the Greek equivalent of MIB. This system means that a victim of an accident abroad does not have to pursue a claim directly with a foreign organisation.

“The outcome of this case is that the law for damages will now be applied consistently to uninsured and insured cases,” commented Ashton West OBE, Chief Executive at MIB.

“Nothing changes the fact that Ms Moreno has been the unfortunate victim of a serious accident with an uninsured driver abroad,” he said. “There is no doubt that she is entitled to damages for her injuries, however, the principle is about using the right law to decide how much to pay Ms Moreno.”

“MIB is here to help UK residents with their claims for compensation while at the same time protecting the interests of UK motorists, who ultimately provide the funds on which we rely,” he added. “As this relates to events which occurred in Greece, everything surrounding the claim should be treated under Greek law.”

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