An obscure European law could be set to add hundreds of pounds in insurance costs to mobility scooter, lawnmower and golf buggy drivers. A recent ruling by the European courts has stated that all motorised vehicles should have car insurance, over-riding the UK's own laws.
In a recent case an EU court has interpreted a 1972 directive in a way that means all motorised vehicles including ride-on lawnmowers and golf caddies should be insured. Keep reading to find out why this ruling could cost you hundreds of pounds in additional insurance costs.
The current car insurance laws in the UK
Under the current UK law, 'niche' motorised vehicles such as mobility scooters and sit-on lawnmowers do not require the same level of insurance as a car or motorbike. For example, lawnmowers only need insurance if they are to be driven in public places while mobility scooters need no insurance to drive on roads.
However, European judges have said that an obscure directive from 1972 clashes with these rules and that similar vehicles should have at least third-party car insurance. Insurers have already reported a surge in inquiries from customers asking whether they need cover for their 'niche' vehicles.
"Everybody is confused as to what the EU is up to," said Mark Effenberg, of Blue Badge, a specialist insurer. "We're now waiting to see how the directive will be interpreted."
Why the law may be set to change
A recent ruling by a Brussels court decided that any moving vehicle should have motor insurance irrespective of whether it is to be driven on public roads. The case arose after a farm worker from Slovenia brought a case to the European courts after he had fallen from a ladder when it was hit by a tractor.
The court decided that as tractors are 'consistent with the normal function' of a motor vehicle insurance rules that relate to cars and motorbikes should also apply.
Insuring your lawnmower could cost £100 a year
At present, you do not need insurance for a lawnmower if it is just to be driven on private land. More Than, the insurer, told Telegraph Money: "We would generally interpret that grass cutting machines are not vehicles intended or adapted for use on a road – their purpose being to cut grass. Therefore, currently, compulsory motor insurance is not required."
However, the EU ruling could change this and require all owners to take out the appropriate cover. This currently costs around £100 a year, according to NFU Mutual.
The ruling will have 'massive consequences' for the insurance industry, said Jeanette Miller, of the Association of Motor Offence Lawyers. "It could potentially cover any vehicle used on land unless it runs on rails. Historically there was no legal requirement to insure a lawnmower but it looks like this may become a compulsory requirement," she said.
Mobility scooter drivers could be faced with an annual car insurance bill
Owners of mobility scooters would also be hit hard by the rule change. According to Cecilia Frodsham of Stephensons Solicitors, if the ruling was enacted scooters would need at least third party liability cover
Ms Frodsham 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."
Official guidelines advise mobility scooter owners to take out insurance to protect themselves against theft or accident but it is not a legal requirement. Insurance could cost around £85 a year according to a mobility insurance specialist.
"The whole issue is on the verge of explosion," said Mr Effenberg, of insurer Blue Badge. "While many mobility scooter users say they can't afford it, there's the argument that they are also unlikely to be able to afford a six-figure personal injury claim."
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