At the outset, I would like to clarify that it is possible for all motorists including commercial drivers such as taxi drivers to buy insurance from insurers authorised in other EU states as part of the Single Market. This can be done through such insurers either:
- establishing a branch operation in the host country and thus conducting business on a ‘freedom of establishment’ (FOE) basis; or
- writing business from the home country (i.e. where authorised) into the host country on a ‘freedom of services’ (FOS) basis.
However, in order to conduct business in this fashion, the insurer is required to meet certain obligations in the host member state, such as becoming a member of the national bureau and the national guarantee fund. In Ireland, the relevant Bureau is the Motor Insurers’ Bureau of Ireland (MIBI). These are important requirements as the MIBI is tasked with meeting the EU requirement of compensating victims of accidents caused by uninsured and unidentified vehicles. What this means therefore is that it is not possible to take out insurance with an insurer which is not operating in the Irish market as such companies will be members only of their own national bureau.
In addition to the above, an important point to note is that an insurer in considering whether it wants to take on Irish risk business will look at a wide range of factors including the award levels, the legal system, the general claims culture etc. Therefore ultimately, even if we do get a more efficient and accessible EU insurance market, there can be no guarantees that insurers in other jurisdictions will automatically be willing to take on Irish risk.
Consequently, the key to addressing this problem is to make Ireland more attractive to new entrants. In this regard, I believe the implementation of the second Personal Injuries Commission Report is an important part of this process in particular its main recommendation that this country follows the example of judicial intervention which has occurred in Northern Ireland and in the UK, namely the introduction of Judicial Guidelines for personal injury awards.