Compulsory insurance for off-road vehicles would be unfair, industry bodies warn
24 August 2017
Owners of quad bikes, golf buggies, motorised lawnmowers and other vehicles on private land could end up being forced to take out third party insurance unless EU officials take action, industry bodies are warning.
The Association of British Insurers (ABI), the Motor Insurers' Bureau, the British Insurance Brokers' Association and other organisations are pressing the European Commission to implement a proposal to clarify that compulsory motor insurance only applies to vehicles when in traffic, and not those used on private land.
It follows a ruling by the European Court of Justice in 2014 that compensation for injuries suffered by a Slovenian farm worker by a tractor while on private land should have been covered by compulsory motor insurance.
In July, the Commission announced it would launch a public consultation on how better to protect victims of car accidents. The consultation will be open until October.
In the UK, motor insurance is compulsory for vehicles used on public roads, but not on private land.
The insurance organisations said that if the commission failed to act, the UK Government would need to change domestic law and extend the scope of compulsory motor insurance - leading to significant disruption and additional costs.
People taking part in motor sports and those with mobility scooters could also be affected, it said.
Ben Howarth, senior policy adviser, motor and liability at the ABI, said: "We recognise that victims of accidents on private land should be entitled to compensation, but making insurance compulsory for off-road vehicle users is unnecessary, unworkable and unfair.
"There is no evidence that this extension is needed in the UK.
"And it could prove the next lucrative hunting ground for claims management companies, encouraging claims that end up being paid for by all motorists through higher premiums.
"The European Commission can easily resolve this, by implementing its own proposal to simply specify that the motor insurance directive only applies to vehicles in traffic.
"It needs to end the uncertainty by doing this now."
The group of UK bodies, which also includes the International Underwriting Association of London, Lloyd’s Market Association and the Forum of Insurance Lawyers, say they are urging the commission to resolve the situation.
They argue that had the accident happened in the UK, it would have been covered through employers’ liability insurance or public liability insurance.
They also say that as details of vehicles such as lawnmowers are not held on a public database, such insurance changes would be “virtually impossible” to enforce – and it would also be difficult for the police and insurers to access private land to ensure compliance and to assess any accident.
It would also be difficult for insurers to calculate how much owners should pay for their premiums without reliable past data, they argue.
A Government spokeswoman said: “The UK has a strong system of insurance and access to compensation. We oppose any measures which impose an unreasonable burden on the public.
“Following the European Court of Justice judgment, we are consulting on whether to extend motor insurance for private land and other vehicle types.
“We are working with the Commission to find an alternative solution to full implementation of the judgment, and we will use the consultation responses to get the best result for the country.
“In due course, we will be leaving the European Union.”
A statement from the Commission said: “The Commission has launched work to collect views on how the rules governing this area function.
“A public consultation is currently gathering feedback on the scope of the rules and specifically whether protection provided under the Motor Insurance Directive should include liability for accidents both on public roads and private property. The consultation is open until 20 October 2017.
“We welcome the feedback of all stakeholders, but while the consultation is ongoing we can’t comment on individual stakeholders’ views or on our future course of action.”