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UK must re-think insurance rules after EU court ruling

UK must re-think insurance rules after EU court ruling Classic and Performance Car

Does your restoration project or stored classic need insurance? It could do soon, as the UK Government must take action following EU court ruling.

Does it make sense for your restoration project, notified as off-the-road with a SORN declaration because it’s in pieces, to require accident insurance? What if the only way it can be insured is by being roadworthy and MoT tested, so by being in pieces it’s illegal? That’s one of the paradoxes posed by the Government’s review of motor insurance. There’s a public consultation via an online questionnaire on the whole business, closing at the end of March.
What’s going on? In 2007, a Mr Vnuk, a Slovenian farm worker, was knocked off his ladder by a tractor’s trailer. He claimed compensation but the problem was that the accident happened on private land, use on which the tractor’s insurance didn’t cover.
Mr Vnuk lost his claim twice in the Slovenian appeals court, but that court then went to the European Court of Justice which in 2014 ruled in Mr Vnuk’s favour. This is why the EU – including the UK, currently – is obliged to re-think the areas that motor insurance covers. 
The points at issue are: (1) requiring vehicles to be insured to cover use on private land to which the public has access; (2) requiring insurance even if the public doesn’t have access; (3) expanding the definition of what constitutes a motor vehicle, which may be far beyond what currently bears a registration number; (4) deciding whether what is nominally a motor vehicle is functionally one at a given time, and capable of being used for its intended purpose, which a SORN vehicle may well not be.
There’s a minefield of ramifications from this. Vehicles used in motorsport might need wider-ranging insurance than they currently have, if indeed they have any at all. Would the burden fall on the vehicle driver, the owner or the event organiser? Vehicles caught in the new net could include ride-on lawnmowers, Segways, fairground dodgem cars, mobility scooters, forklift trucks, golf buggies, electrically assisted bicycles and more. There could even be a case for including human-powered bicycles, if the thinking is taken to its logical conclusion.

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Would there need to be registry of all such vehicles? Would a dodgem car need a number plate? The consultation sets out two approaches.
The ‘comprehensive’ option, as favoured by the EU, all-embracingly requires that all vehicles being used in a way consistent with the vehicle’s normal function and purpose would be required to have third-party insurance (not necessarily comprehensive, in the way normally understood for insurance), even if used only on private land. Whether that includes exercising or testing your SORN vehicle is as yet unclear, but ‘use’ does suggest a functional vehicle. The UK will have to adopt this approach while it remains in the EU, if the EU so dictates, but the detail is up for discussion.
The ‘amended directive’ option, favoured by the Government, would still require insurance for a wider range of vehicles than now to be insured when used on private land with public access, but otherwise leaves things closer to how they are now. The EU’s new insurance directive, yet to be enacted, would be amended after Brexit. Either way, premiums will rise, there will be more forms to complete, more claims will be made, people will be more worried about using historic vehicles in ambiguous circumstances, and life will get a little more complicated. Find the questionnaire here.
Words: John Simister

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