Guy Vickers in credit hire “supercar” case success

August 3, 2016

Guy Vickers from Exchange Chambers has successfully acted in a case which has further clarified the rules under which the party-at-fault in a road traffic accident may  be responsible for the non-fault party’s credit hire fees.

Charles Gow owned a McLaren MP4 which he had bought for £190,000 just weeks before it was involved in an accident. The party-at-fault – a tractor – had struck a pothole and lurched sideways, causing scratches to Mr Gow’s car.

Following the accident, Mr Gow told the tractor driver’s insurance company, NFU Mutual, that he would be prepared to make do with a replacement Ferrari while the McLaren was repaired.  However, a Ferrari was not made available to him and after two months had passed, he hired a Mercedes SLS AMG coupe instead, also a very luxurious “supercar”, although less valuable than his McLaren.

The insurance company was not prepared to pay for the cost of hiring the Mercedes, contending that the damage was just a few scratches and Mr Gow clearly had alternative, very nice, cars available to him including 2 Aston Martins (which were 7 and 9 years old), a BMW 5 Series and a Range Rover. None of these, claimed Mr Gow, were anywhere close to being on a par in terms of prestige with the McLaren, although he had utilised one of the Aston Martin’s while waiting for the Ferrari he was initially promised.

The judge ruled in Mr Gow’s favour, accepting Guy Vickers’ argument that the McLaren was a particularly special car and Mr Gow did not have a like-for-like replacement he could have driven instead. The judge noted that although the Mercedes was one of the better models on the market, it fell short of the “status and prestige” of the McLaren. In the result Mr Gow recovered the hire charges in full and also General Damages for the 2 months before he hired the Mercedes during which, although he drove his Aston, he was nevertheless deprived of the enjoyment and use of his McLaren.

Commenting on the case, Guy Vickers said:

“There are around 1,000,000 road traffic accidents on the roads of the UK every year which involve the car of the blameless party requiring repair. Ever since the House of Lords ruled, in 1993 in Giles v Thompson, that it was not champertous for a credit hire organisation to supply a replacement car on credit to the innocent party while his own was being repaired, and, indeed, that credit hire companies were filling a gap in the market and levelling up the playing field between private motorists and insurance companies, a legal war has waged between credit hire organisations and insurers with the insurers coming up with every argument they can to defeat claims and the Court of Appeal and House of Lords being regularly called upon to give guidance on how the law of tort should apply to this very common set of circumstances.

“This was an unusual case in that, unlike the average motorist, Mr Gow owned not only his McLaren Supercar but also 4 or 5 other cars including 2 Aston Martins, a BMW 5 Series and a Range Rover. One of the fundamental principles when a claimant makes a claim for damages for the loss of use of his motor car pending repairs (as represented by the cost of hiring a replacement) is that he must establish a need for a replacement. In most cases this is a straightforward matter of simply pointing to the fact that the damaged car was the only car the claimant had the use of before the accident; but in Gow the Defendant argued that, because of his other vehicles, Mr Gow could not establish need.”

Concluded Guy:

“Mr Gow successfully argued that, in this context, need was to be assessed not in some objective utilitarian sense but by considering what type of vehicle the claimant had the use of before the accident and whether any of the other cars he already owned could replace that use. So although he had other cars, some of them objectively highly desirable, none of them was a supercar like his McLaren and the Defendant, having to take his victim as he found him, was obliged to recompense him the cost of hiring an equivalent to his own.”