A claimant severely injured in a crash with an unknown motorist is entitled to costs protection against a compensatory body, the Court of Appeal has ruled.

Lorry driver Michael Howe, 70, was left partially paralysed after an RTA in France more than 10 years ago, and brought his compensation claim against the Motor Insurers’ Bureau as the driver of the other vehicle could not be traced.

Howe’s case was struck out after his original lawyers missed various limitation periods, and he faced a potential legal bill for hundreds of thousands of pounds after the High Court ruled he did not have costs protection.

At first instance, Mr Justice Stewart found Howe was not entitled to qualified one way costs shifting (QOCS), which was introduced by the 2013 Jackson reforms to protect claimants from liability for defendants’ costs. The judge said Howe’s claim was not for damages for personal injury as the MIB was not the party that injured him. 

In Howe v Motor Insurers’ Bureau, the Court of Appeal upheld Howe’s challenge to that decision, with Lord Justice Lewison ruling he was not liable for defendant costs and that the QOCS regime applies. The decision is expected to have wide-reaching implications at home and abroad in cases brought against compensatory bodies, such as insurers, the MIB and tour operators.

Lawyers appealing on behalf of Howe, including Benjamin Williams QC of 4 New Square and Fieldfisher partner Jill Greenfield and senior associate Dushal Mehta, argued that their client deserved the protection of QOCS.

They added that the judgment ensures the wording contained within QOCS rules should be interpreted broadly to encompass any claim where compensation is sought by an injured claimant. These should include claims under holiday package regulations and claims made directly to insurance companies.

In a statement, Fieldfisher said the ruling ensures a ‘level playing field’ for claimants and will be applied to many other cases stayed pending the outcome as to the correct interpretation of a claim for personal injury.

Mehta added: ’After all this time, it is a huge relief to Mr Howe that he has been protected by the courts for a terrible injury that was in no way his fault. This decision will also give comfort to many other claimants bringing personal injury claims against compensatory bodies or insurers.’

The claim for compensation for Howe’s injuries, against the professional indemnity insurer of his former solicitor, is ongoing.