Dr Nicholas Bevan

Dr Nicholas Bevan

Friday, 14 February 2014

A lower tariff for minor road accident claims does not infringe Community Law

Petillo and another v Unipol Assicurazioni SpA C-371/12

The facts: on 21 September 2007 Carlo Petillo sustained minor injuries in a rear end collision in Italy by a car insured by Unipol; liability was not contested.  He presented his claim against Unipol direct, which included a claim for non-material damage, which is a similar concept to general damages in the UK but which, as a unitary concept, cannot be divided into categories or headings.  Under Italian law, the prescribed levels of compensation awarded for such loss where there are minor injuries differentiates between claims caused by the use of motor vehicles and waterborne craft, on the one hand, and claims based on other liability scenarios, on the other.  Under this code the level of compensation prescribed for road accident injuries is considerably less than would otherwise the be case[1].  The Italian court referred the issue as to whether this infringed the Second Directive to the CJEU.

The decision: No it did not.  On the facts, the CJEU found that this legislation did not automatically exclude or disproportionally limit the victim’s right to compensation.   It held that the directives do not preclude, in principle, either national legislation imposing binding criteria on national courts as to how the non-material damage should be compensated or specific schemes adapted to the particular circumstances of road traffic accidents, even if these schemes are less favourable to the victim than would be awarded to accidents other than road traffic accidents. 

[1] Under article 139 of the Private Insurance Code.

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