Singapore

Landmark ruling on uninsured passengers in M’sia-registered vehicles

Uninsured passengers who are injured in Malaysian-registered vehicles that are found to be liable in accidents here can claim for damages through the Motor Insurers' Bureau of Singapore (MIB).

This follows a landmark High Court ruling last month from a test case involving a Malaysian insurer that centred on the different requirements in both countries.

Under Singapore law, no vehicle can be driven here without compulsory insurance cover for causing injury or death to a third party from negligent use of that vehicle.

But there is no compulsory comprehensive cover for passengers under Malaysian law for Malaysian-registered vehicles entering Singapore.

That means if the rider of a Malaysian motorcycle is liable for an accident on Singapore roads, his uninsured injured passenger would not be compensated by the rider's Malaysian insurer.

"Malaysian vehicles driven into Singapore must be insured by an insurer which has entered into such an agreement with MIB in order to be exempt from the statutory requirements relating to compulsory insurance," noted Justice Quentin Loh.

This was the basis of the case heard by the High Court, in which Malaysian Koo Siew Tai sued for serious injuries sustained when she was a pillion rider on Malaysian Liew Voon Fah's motorcycle.

Mr Liew, 47, was taking Madam Koo to work on Dec 8, 2007, when his motorcycle skidded and flung her off, causing serious head injuries.

Madam Koo, now 44, suffered from post-traumatic epilepsy and lost her job. She was awarded $788,057 in compensation in the High Court here in February 2011.

But Mr Liew's Malaysian-registered motorcycle was insured by Malaysian AM General Insurance, which did not cover passenger liability here.

In 2013, she sued the insurers bureau for the sum, but it argued it was entitled to be reimbursed by AM General based on a cross-border agreement with Malaysian insurers.

AGREEMENT

The agreement specified conditions under which the insurers were liable to compensate accident victims, like their Singapore counterparts.

The suit was suspended in 2015 by both the bureau and Madam Koo, and they jointly sued AM General in 2016 to settle the judgement sum.

The defendants cited a Malaysian court case to support their stand that the bureau had to first pay Madam Koo before the AM General's obligation to pay kicks in.

But Justice Loh disagreed with that and ordered AM General to pay $788,057 to the bureau plus interest from February 2011. He said the insurers bureau is legally obliged to award $788,057 for Madam Koo's benefit.

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