Are you aware Irish law obliges drivers to have motor insurance to cover accidents occurring in a public place? As a result of a recent ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ), compulsory motor insurance has to cover any accident caused in the course of the use of a vehicle that is consistent with the normal function of that vehicle. In other words, as Shane Hennelly from Thompson Insurances explains, the location of the accident is irrelevant.
The ruling arose from an incident in August 2007 when a Slovenian national Mr Vnuk was knocked from a ladder by a reversing tractor and trailer in a farm yard. He sought compensation from the motor insurers of the tractor which was declined on the basis that the accident occurred in a private place and so was not covered by the policy.
After an appeal, the Slovenian Supreme Court referred a question to the ECJ for a preliminary ruling. The Advocate General gave an opinion in February 2014 that supported the view expressed by Mr Vnuk that the concept of use and so the requirement for insurance cannot be confined to journeys on a public road.
A number of Member States expressed their concern at the opinion and sought to make submissions but this was rejected by the ECJ. In particular, Ireland sought to impose temporal limits on the effect of any judgement, again without success.
As things stand, Ireland must comply with his ruling and so motor insurance should be in place for all motor vehicles irrespective of whether an accident occurs in a public or private place. If you have vehicles (fork lifts, diggers, dumpers, tractors etc. – in fact, any mechanically propelled vehicle) used in what was formally a non-Road Traffic Act circumstance or location (e.g., fork lift within a non-public place such as warehouse, private site or land) and which are not covered by a Motor Insurance policy then you now need to arrange a Road Traffic Act (Motor) policy.
The Department of Transport is said to be examining the implications of the judgement for Ireland and further developments are anticipated but, in the interim, it is very important that you are aware of the potential risk.
This ruling may have an implication for you and your business. f you require clarification as to whether you need to consider further insurance protection in relation to “mechanically propelled equipment and plant”, contact Shane Hennelly on 01 481 7716 or firstname.lastname@example.org
This Business Support article featured in the July/August 2016 edition of The Hardware Journal.