Do you need to start buying car insurance for your lawn mower...?
An obscure European law has resurfaced to potentially bite people in the behind, after a European court has ruled that any moving vehicle, whether on public or private land, should be covered by motor insurance in case of an accident. This means that ride-on lawnmowers, mobility scooters and even golf buggies could need an insurance policy- even in your own garden.
This issue, which goes back as far as 1972, has reared its head again after Damijan Vnuk, a farm worker from Slovenia, brought a case to the European courts last year after falling from a ladder when it was hit by a tractor.
The court in Brussels decided that any moving vehicle, whether on public and private land, should have actual motor insurance, the normal proviso that vehicles not driven on the road are exempt ceasing to apply. The argument of the court was that tractors are "consistent with the normal function" of a motor vehicle, so normal insurance rules relating to cars and motorbikes therefore apply.
Under British law, currently only vehicles travelling on a "road or other public place" – with the exception of mobility scooters – are required to be insured, but the ruling would see this extended to any place, including farmyards and golf courses.
The Telegraph reports that the Department for Transport is currently in discussion with the industry body, the Association of British Insurers, to clarify which types of vehicles will need to be insured and at what level. Insurers have already reported a surge in calls from customers worried whether their golf caddies and lawnmowers need to be covered, and if so, whether third party cover is sufficient.
"Everybody is confused as to what the EU is up to," said Mark Effenberg, of Blue Badge, a specialist insurer for mobility scooters. "We're now waiting to see how the directive will be interpreted."
But, although an irritation, and an unnecessary cost, the cost of insuring mobility scooters is not prohibitive, with mobility scooter policies costing around £90 for third party and breakdown, and a determined pensioners in search of this week’s cash could probably do some damage to an unsuspecting passer-by. While mobility scooters are currently regarded as exempt, official guidelines state that mobility scooter drivers are "strongly advised that people take out insurance" to cover accident or theft. While this is (currently) not considered a legal requirement, in some cases forcing the issue could, in some cases, be a good thing.
Celia Frodsham of Stephenson’s Solicitors said: "Uninsured people have, in the past, lost their homes after being sued for negligence because they have injured people with their scooters. Therefore insurance is recommended to avoid this."