Supreme Court forces MAA to rule on car accident injuries case

Date: Feb 25, 2015


The Motor Accidents Authority (MAA) must now rule on a car accident injuries case following a Supreme Court decision that overturned a previously enforced exemption.

The plaintiff launched a claim for compensation following a crash in which he was the passenger during a motorcar rally that occurred in 2012. His son, the driver, lost control of the vehicle and landed in a gravel drain.

While the courts did not discuss the extent of the passenger’s injuries, the damage sustained required medical attention and a number of related expenses.

Initially, the insurer of the unregistered car admitted liability for the incident under the Motor Accidents Compensation Act 1999. The organisation paid for the medical fees as a result.

However, the firm later denied indemnity, claiming the accident occurred as part of an organised motor sports event. As such, the company relied on a voluntary assumption of risk defence, citing section 140 of the Act in support.

The insurer added that to be held liable the accident must have occurred on a road, which is defined as an area open to or used by the public. According to the company, the road on which the rally was taking place was restricted to the public at the time of the accident.

Supreme Court overrules MAA

Taking into account the insurer’s revocation of liability, the MAA’s Claims Assessment and Resolution Service issued an exemption that prevented the claim from being considered under its remit.

The plaintiff sought an order from the Supreme Court to declare this exemption invalid, claiming that the insurer’s actions should not have permitted this outcome. While the complexity of the liability issue was acknowledged, the judge ruled in favour of the plaintiff.

“Given that an admission of liability under [Section 81 of the Act] cannot be withdrawn and that indemnity is necessarily implied, the question of liability is precluded from further examination,” Supreme Court Justice Michael Adams stated.

“An assessor could not decide that, because the insurer wished to contest the issue of indemnity so far as [the] insured is concerned, the claim should be exempted from determination by the service.”
In other words, the insurer’s later decision to contest liability should not have been a factor in the MAA’s ruling of whether or not to take on the case.

The judge therefore quashed the MAA exemption and forced the organisation to determine the claimant’s case pursuant to the Act, with the insurer liable for the costs of the court proceedings.

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