Mowers and buggies may need compulsory insurance following ruling

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir July 27, 2015 14:43

Golf clubs may be forced to purchase insurance for greenkeepers who use ride-on mowers and golfers who use buggies, following a landmark European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling.

buggies rob young

Image by Rob Young

Currently you only need insurance for those vehicles in the UK if you are going to drive them on a road or a public place, but the ECJ has ruled that the scope of an EU insurance law dating back to 1972 should be extended to make it compulsory to have insurance for all motorised vehicles, even if they are only being used on private land.

The ruling follows a case involving a Slovenian, Damijan Vnuk, who was injured after falling from a ladder which had been hit by a reversing tractor trailer.

As the incident involved a vehicle being used as an ‘agricultural machine’ and occurred on private property, motor insurers refused to cover the claim.

But the EU court has ruled that the accident should have been covered by compulsory vehicle insurance, and that cover is required for ‘any motor vehicle intended for travel on land and propelled by mechanical power’. This, it appears, would include ride-on mowers and golf cars.

The Department for Transport and the Association of British Insurers are currently in discussions on the matter, but no firm conclusions have been decided.

Jeanette Miller of the Association of Motor Offence Lawyers said: “This could potentially cover any vehicle used on land unless it runs on rails.

“Historically, there was no legal requirement to insure a mower, but it looks like this may become a compulsory requirement.”

It is thought that golf clubs would have to make sure their golf equipment, such as buggies, is adequately insured, even for use on private grounds.

The Department for Transport is yet to confirm when final decisions about the proposed legal changes will be made.

mower john haslam

Image by John Haslam

Kate Sweeney of Stephensons law firm said: “The Association of British Insurers have helpfully pointed out that many current motor policies will now include cover for drivers on private land, and supplement this with the comment that whilst that of course will not cover machines such as mowers and tractors, in those cases there may be cover under existing household or liability policies.”

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “It is too soon to understand exactly how this ruling will apply in the UK. We are working with the European Commission and other member states to agree what it will mean in practice and these discussions are ongoing.”

A spokesman for insurance law specialist DWF added: “Vnuk will not have immediate impact on the application of the Road Traffic Act or on insurers in the UK but will lead to a review of the Road Traffic Act.

“During the expected consultation to amend the Road Traffic Act, consideration will need to be given to countering the widened scope of liability by the effective use of permitted derogations.

“The directive permits the derogation of certain vehicles and the UK relies on this exclusion for some vehicles such as those owned by local authorities. It is apparent that other member states have excluded other classes of vehicles, for instance Vnuk refers to some member states having specifically excluded tractors.

“For the EU’s approach to use to be applied sensibly in the UK, there will need to be increased reliance on the permitted derogations. If not, consumers and businesses using vehicles solely or primarily on private land would face an increased insurance burden, which is likely to include many vehicles not currently insured at all.  The policing of a requirement to insure vehicles kept and used solely on private land will create its own problems.”


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir July 27, 2015 14:43
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1 Comment

  1. Phil Hopkins July 30, 21:48

    In the UK, if self propelled vehicles such as horticultural equipment and golf buggies are not insured specifically under a motor policy then the motor insurer will clearly deny a claim. However, it is possible to insure legal liability arising from use of these vehicles on private land within a combined policy for golf courses, although it is not compulsory to do so. Golf Clubs should check the Ts&Cs of their policy; if such vehicles are not covered against legal liability then it would be prudent to have this cover included. It is not compulsory for commercial organisations to insure against third party legal liability in general but in practice most do.

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