Dr Nicholas Bevan

Dr Nicholas Bevan

Friday, 19 April 2013

NEW LAW JOURNAL backs call for reform

The New Law Journal's wonderful editor, Jan Miller, is putting the full weight of the UK's premier weekly law journal behind the campaign to persuade the Secretary of State for Transport, Rt Hon Stephen Hammond M P, to widen the scope of his review of the Uninsured and Untraced Drivers Agreements

Jan has promoted this cause to front cover status in the 19 April 2013 issue along with a robust editorial feature of her own.

The Problem

Our current national law provision for guaranteeing road accident victims their full compensatory entitlement is a hotch potch of different statutory and extra-statutory provisions that fail to deliver a consistent or adequate level of protection.  This very British muddle provides loopholes that both motor insurers and the Motor Insurers Bureau can exploit to escape their responsibility to compensate victims.

This affects all of us, because each one of us is exposed in our daily lives to the risk of serious injury or loss as consequence of careless or reckless drivers.  We have the right to expect that our Government will ensure that the compulsory third party motor insurance we are obliged to purchase is fit for purpose.  Unfortunately it is not.

An already badly flawed compensatory regime took a turn for the worse last year when the Court of Appeal ruled, in EUI v Bristol Alliance Ltd Partnership [2012] EWCA Civ 1267 11/10/12, that whilst the Road Traffic Act 1988 requires road users to have insurance that covers any use they make of their motor vehicle, the insurers are free to hedge their liabilities by limiting the scope of cover they provide. How confident are you that the small print of your third party motor insurance policy covers every use you make of your car?  
Accidents happen, even to the most careful of drivers. If your motor insurance does not fully indemnify you, you could face financial ruin and expose the victim to the risks inherent in seeking compensation from the Motor Insurers Bureau (see below). This defeats the legislative purpose behind the compulsory third party insurance provisions. It also conflicts with the minimum standards of cover imposed by the Sixth Motor Insurance Directive (2009/103/EC) which our Government has failed to fully implement. Successive Ministers in the Department for Transport have effectively been driving this important facet of Government policy whilst asleep at the wheel. 

Mr Hammond’s review presents each one of us with an opportunity to make a difference by responding to this review and calling wide ranging reform, not just to the Uninsured and Untraced Drivers Agreements but also to the Road Traffic Act 1988 and the EC Rights Against Insurers Regulations 2002.

The Motor Insurers Bureau, who also represent motor insurance industry, have presided for decades over two schemes that are not only  blatantly unfair from a procedural view point (take for example the numerous procedural strike out clauses for the most trivial reasons that leave victims empty handed in clauses 7 to 13 of the Uninsured Drivers Agreement) but they are in places substantively illegal (take for example the unlawful entitlement to reduce victims compensatory entitlement, in Clauses 6 and 17, which conflict with our common law and the minimum standards imposed by the Sixth Motor Insurance Directive).  

The Bureau has had long enough to put itself in order and to correct these injustices.  There are obvious conflicts of interests at play; its independence and objectivity as a compensatory body has been found wanting. Now is surely the time to do away with these appallingly badly drafted anachronistic quasi legal schemes and to codify them instead: creating a statutory compensatory right; one that ordinary citizens can read and understand.

What you can do

All you have to do is to write a short note to Christopher Curson, Road User Licensing, Insurance and Safety Division, Department for Transport, Zone 3/21, Great Minster House, London SW1P 4DR or email him at drivers.agreements@dft.gsi.gov.uk.  

I have identified over 30 instances where our national law provision for motor vehicle victims fails to conform to the minimum standards of protection required by European Community law.  I will address all these issues in my full consultation response. Fortunately, there is no need for other respondents to do so.

All you need to do is:
  • Provide your name and address
  • Say you are responding to the Minister’s review of the Uninsured and Untraced Drivers Agreements
  • You may well share my view that most of the proposals for improving these Agreements are to be welcomed, with the exception of Question 18 which is illegal as it conflicts with Community law (see my articles).  You can safely ignore the 19 Questions in the review paper if you like, as these are largely of peripheral concern.  However the key points to make are:
  • The proposals don’t go nearly far enough. 
  • The Minister needs to:
    • Restore the original legislative objective of the Road Traffic Act 1930 (as amended by the 1934 Act) to ensure that all victims of motor vehicle users who under our national law are entitled to compensation for their loss or injury are to be automatically entitled to recover compensation from the vehicle’s motor insurers direct, wherever the accident occurs in the UK and whatever the circumstances of the incident.  The victims right to compensation should be guaranteed and free from any policy term or other restriction in liability between the insurer and policyholder.
    • Adhere to the minimum standards of protection for victims of motor vehicle users required by the Sixth Motor Insurance Directive and Community law (which incidentally requires the full and comprehensive third party cover set out above).
    • Codify the statutory and extra-statutory provision for victims of uninsured and unidentified drivers so that they provide a consistent, clearly articulated, fair and just compensatory regime for victims of insured, insufficiently insured, uninsured or unidentified drivers alike.

It is as simple and straightforward as that!  Don't delay, post your email today!

If you want to submit a more detailed response, then see my earlier post Call For Reform

Do this by 26 April 2013 (the deadline) and you will contribute to writing a page in legal history.

Isn't it lovely to be campaigning for victims rights and not lawyers fees for a change!

I will post a copy of my full consultation response on this blog shortly.


  1. Thank you. I have just posted an email to Mr Curzon as you suggested. I have also shared your article via social media.