On the 7th of November, in the High Court, the road victims’ charity RoadPeace persuaded Mr. Justice Ouseley that compulsory insurance should be extended to the use of vehicles on private land, or “off-road vehicles”. For example, when vehicles are used on private driveways or yards.
This was an important victory for victims of vehicle accidents that occur on private land. Currently, they are not guaranteed that insurance will be in place. If it is not, then they are unable to claim from the Motor Insurers’ Bureau. The MIB exists to compensate people who are injured by uninsured drivers. This can leave people with life changing injuries, but no way of getting the assistance they need.
The Current Law
Section 143 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 requires insurance to be in place where a driver uses a vehicle on a road, or another public place. For example, an NCP car park that is open to the public is a public place. But a gated yard is probably not a public place.
It is an offence to drive whilst uninsured. It is also an offence to allow another driver to use your vehicle without insurance. Both offences carry 6 – 8 penalty points and a fine.
If someone is injured by a driver who is uninsured, they can claim compensation from the MIB, rather than an insurance company. All insurers pay into the MIB to fund the scheme.
Is the Off-Road Vehicle Insurance Law Going to Change?
Probably. This High Court ruling is a ‘declaration of incompatibility’. This means that the Judge has declared that the current law is incompatible with an EU Directive.
The EU Directive requires insurance to be in place for any use of a vehicle that is consistent with its normal function. If a vehicle is used purely as a run-around on private land, then the European Directive would require it to be insured. But UK legislation does not require this.
Mr. Justice Ouseley’s declaration that the two laws are incompatible requires the UK Government to change the law, unless there is a very good reason not to. In normal circumstances, the Government should do it as soon as possible.
There is a political element here though. The Government may not wish to be seen to impose additional costs on businesses, including many farms, at the same time as we are due to leave the EU. If the Government does decide to ignore the ruling, then it may well find itself back in court again.
What Will the Effect Be if the Law Does Change?
Sensible businesses will already have insurance for injuries caused by their vehicles regardless of where they are used. Many third-party liability insurance policies will cover this. Those that do not will have an additional cost, which will have to be passed to consumers.
The big positive here is that – if the Government acts on this ruling – those who are injured by off-road vehicles used by a rogue business will be able to claim against the Motor Insurers Bureau, and so will receive the same compensation as those injured elsewhere.