Vnuk: technical legislation aimed at reversing the decision has been published

Finally, we have the text of the Bill which seeks to remove the effects of the Vnuk (etc) line of European cases from UK motor insurance law. It is not a government Bill (more on why not in my blog from last month) and will therefore be subject to the procedural vagaries and uncertainties of private member’s legislation in the Commons.

At first sight, the Bill looks to be technically sound, in seeking to remove the current interpretation of the EU Motor Insurance Directive (article 3 “use” in particular) from the laws of England & Wales and Scotland (road traffic law in Northern Ireland is devolved).

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“Deal reached on new rules to better protect road accident victims”

This is the headline from yesterday’s press release from the European Parliament which provides the outline of an agreement in principle between the Parliament and the Council on the key measures to take forward in the reform of the Motor Insurance Directive. The stand-out feature is the scope of compulsory insurance – a controversial area as a result of the Vnuk case – on which there is apparent consensus on excluding motorsports and ebikes as well as the prospect of allowing for non-standard non-road vehicles to be excluded.

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Motor insurance: what does “stolen” actually mean?

The single permitted exclusion from the scope of compulsory insurance set out in the Motor Insurance Directive 2009/103 is in respect of claims made by “persons who voluntarily entered the vehicle which caused the damage or injury, when the insurer can prove that they knew the vehicle was stolen” (article 13.1).The Road Traffic Act 1998, however, enacts the exclusion in slightly different language, referring to claims by passengers “knew or had reason to believe that the vehicle had been stolen or unlawfully taken” (section 151(4)).

Greenway & Rocks v Parrish, Covea & MIB involves passengers injured in a car that was unlawfully taken – but not “stolen” (as defined in the Theft Act) – and the point at issue is whether the wider language in the RTA is compatible with the Directive, something which will turn on the proper interpretation of the meaning of “stolen” in the Directive. In a decision in March this year, in which judgment was published recently, Spencer J reversed Master McCloud’s decision and allowed the insurer’s application on appeal for four experts from other jurisdictions to give evidence on how article 13 has been implemented (which is materially different from considering other language versions of the Directive).

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