Fleet News

EU ruling on compensation

EUROPEAN Union (EU) courts can excuse insurers from having to pay compensation payments owed by motor policyholders when their victims are partly to blame for a road accident, a European Court of Justice (ECJ) official has concluded. Advocate general Leendert Geelhoed said national court judges should decide such cases, unfettered by EU Directives on insurance and civil liability.

He added that in such cases, vehicle owners (when not driving) should receive the same treatment as other passengers over insurance policy handouts. The case centres on a road accident in Finland, but the final ruling will be a precedent across the EU. Usually, ECJ judges follow their advocate generals' advice.

Passengers in a car that crashed are fighting a refusal by insurance companies to pay compensation owed by the driver, because they knew he was drunk when they entered the vehicle.

The passengers and the car owner claim that EU insurance and civil liability legislation obliges insurers to meet such compensation bills when a reckless driver cannot afford them. In this case, the driver was convicted of murder after one passenger died in the accident, and of wounding and dangerous drunk driving after two passengers were injured, one seriously. The driver was told to compensate them and the dead woman's daughter, another passenger. But a Finnish appeal court said insurers had no duty to pay because of the passengers' prior knowledge of the driver's drunkenness.

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