Farm Ireland

Wednesday 17 October 2018

Insurance hike fears for off-road vehicles after European court ruling on farm death

Stock pic
Stock pic

Ciaran Moran and Vicky Shaw

Owners of quad bikes, golf buggies and motorised lawnmowers and other vehicles on private land could soon be forced to take out third party insurance, industry bodies are warning.

Insurance organisations in Europe are currently pressing the European Commission to implement a proposal to clarify that compulsory motor insurance only applies to vehicles when on a public road, and not when 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.

Insurance Ireland has said the ‘Vnuk’ decision by the European Court of Justice has raised the prospect of motor insurance having to cover accidents on private land and not just accidents arising from the use of vehicles in a public place, as is the current case in Ireland.

As well as complicating efforts to tackle uninsured driving, it said any extension of cover to private land could increase the cost of claims in motor insurance which Insurance Ireland has been working to reduce with the Government and other stakeholders through the Cost of Insurance Working Group.

Insurance Ireland said it is supporting the efforts being made through the European Commission’s Motor Insurance Directive to clarify that compulsory motor insurance only applies to vehicles when in traffic and looks forward to early action on behalf of the EU to remedy this anomaly.

The insurance organisations are warning that if the Commission fails to act, Governments 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.

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UK insurance organisations have said making insurance compulsory for off-road vehicle users is unnecessary, unworkable and unfair.

They are also warning that 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 organisations say 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.

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.

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