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IP/03/530

Brussels, 10th April 2003

Motor insurance: Commission moves to ensure five Member States apply EU laws

The European Commission has decided to take five Member States (France, Luxembourg, Italy, Ireland and Portugal) to the European Court of Justice for failing to implement the Fourth Motor Insurance Directive (2000/26/EC) by the agreed date of 20 July 2002. Until the Directive is properly applied throughout the EU, drivers from one Member State involved in an accident with a car registered and insured in another Member State will still face serious difficulties in claiming compensation quickly. The Commission has also decided to formally request Portugal to bring its legislation into line with the Second Motor Insurance Directive (84/5/EEC) so that victims of traffic accidents can be compensated up to the minimum levels provided for in that Directive. The Commission's request takes the form of a so-called 'reasoned opinion', the second stage in the infringement procedure under Article 226 of the EC Treaty. If Portugal does not respond satisfactorily, the Commission may decide to bring this matter, too, before the Court of Justice.

France, Luxembourg, Italy, Ireland and Portugal failure to implement the Fourth Motor Insurance Directive

Unlike the first three Motor Insurance Directives, the fourth Directive covers instances when the accident takes place outside the victim's Member State of residence. The Directive also applies to accidents between two EU parties in any of the 43 countries participating in the Green Card system (for more information, see the website of the Council of Bureaux, which manages the Green Card system, at http://www.cobx.org).

It aims to facilitate and speed up the settling of claims by allowing victims to directly refer to the insurer of the liable party rather than having to refer to the liable party him or herself. Every insurer is required to nominate a claims representative in every EU Member State, so that an accident victim can deal with a representative of the liable insurer in his or her own Member State and language.

Under the Directive, Member States are also required to:

  • impose sanctions to accelerate compensation, where liable insurers take more than three months to make a reasoned reply to a compensation request

  • establish information centres to deal with motor vehicle insurance issues in general, so as to make it easier for accident victims to find out who insures the liable party

  • establish a compensation body to settle claims in cases where there is no claims representative or where the liable insurer is too slow to settle. This body will then claim the money back from the compensation body of the Member State where the liable insurer is established.

Member States agreed when the Council adopted the Directive to implement it by 20 July 2002. However, only four Member States - Germany, Austria, Finland and Sweden respected that deadline. The Commission therefore decided to act quickly to ensure implementation in the other eleven Member States so that motorists were not deprived of the significant benefits to which under the Directive they have been entitled since 20 January 2003.

The Commission sent letters of formal notice to the other eleven Member States, after which Denmark, Spain and Belgium also implemented the Directive.

After receiving formal requests to implement the Directive, in the form of so-called 'reasoned opinions' under the next stage of the infringement procedure, Greece and the UK also implemented the Directive in their national law.

The Commission has now decided refer five remaining Member States - France, Luxembourg, Italy, Ireland and Portugal - to the Court. The Commission will examine as soon as possible whether also to take the Netherlands to the Court.

Portugal - minimum amounts of compensation

The Commission has sent a formal request to Portugal to bring its legislation into line with the Second Motor Insurance Directive (84/5/EEC) so that victims of traffic accidents can be compensated up to the minimum levels provided for by Article 1 of the Directive.

The main purpose of the Second Motor Insurance Directive is to guarantee accident victims adequate compensation irrespective of the Member State in which accidents occur.

The Directive sets minimum amounts for the cover to be provided by compulsory motor insurance, so as to limit disparities between the different national systems in the EU. The current minimum amounts set by the Directive for compulsory motor insurance are:

  • personal injuries: €350,000 for one victim and €500,000 per claim if there ismore than one victim

  • damage to property: €100,000 per claim

  • personal injuries and damage to property: €600,000 per claim.

Article 508(1) of the Portuguese Civil Code sets compensation for road traffic accidents, in cases where the person legally responsible is not at fault, at a level lower than the minimum sums prescribed by the Directive. Where there is no fault, the maximum amount of compensation payable in the event of death or injury is €29,927.88. This is clearly inconsistent with the minimum amount of €350,000 set by the Directive.

The Commission accepts that the determination of the nature of the civil liability (i.e. whether fault is required or not for compensation to be payable to a victim) is a matter for the Member States.

But once civil liability (for fault or no-fault) exists under national law, the Motor Insurance Directives require it to be covered by insurance and require the minimum amounts referred to above to be applied, whatever the nature of the civil liability. This position has been confirmed by the European Court of Justice's case law, in particular through its judgement delivered on 14th September 2000 in the Ferreira case (C-348/98).

Information concerning current infringement procedures against all Member States is available on the Europa website:

http://ec.europa.eu/secretariat_general/sgb/droit_com/index_en.htm


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