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Mobility scooter and lawnmower owners may need insurance

Written by: Paloma Kubiak
A European ruling which could force UK owners of off-road and motorised vehicles to have insurance has been branded “unfair” by the insurance industry.

Owners of golf buggies, motorised lawnmowers, mobility scooters and quad bikes which are used on private land, could be forced to take out third party insurance following a ruling by the European Court of Justice.

In 2014 the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled 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 the UK motor insurance is compulsory for vehicles used on public roads, not on private land. But due to the EU ruling, the UK government would need to change domestic law to extend the scope of compulsory motor insurance for the duration that the UK remains in the EU, including any transition period through Brexit.

The trade body for the insurance industry, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) has branded the ruling as “unnecessary, unworkable and unfair” and said the move would lead to significant disruption and additional costs.

In its response to the ruling, it said it’s “unnecessary” as had the accident happened in the UK, it would have been covered through employers’ liability insurance or public liability insurance. “No other EU country has such a wide-ranging compulsory motor insurance regime as that that would result from implementing this ruling”.

It is “unworkable” because implementing it would involve a costly taxpayer-funded enforcement and compliance regime, plus it would be virtually impossible to enforce as these vehicles aren’t on any public database and don’t need to be licenced. “It would be difficult for the police and insurers to access private land to ensure compliance and to assess any accident. This could increase the risk of uninsured driving and fraud”, the response stated.

The ABI also branded the ruling as “unfair” as regular recreational motorsport participants would be forced to pay for cover they have never needed before. “As insurers will have no reliable past data to assess the risk and calculate premiums, the cost of insurance could make it difficult for some events to continue. Responsibility for the safety of participants and the public at such events should remain the responsibility of the event organisers”, it added.

‘No evidence this extension needed in the UK’

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 ABI, together with the British Insurance Brokers Association, Motor Insurers’ Bureau, International Underwriting Association, Lloyds Market Association and Lloyd’s, are urging the EU Commission to resolve this by seeking clarification that it will only apply to vehicles in traffic, rather than when used on private land.

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