The Road Traffic Act 1961 made legal provision in Ireland for compulsory insurance against liabilities arising from the use of mechanically propelled vehicles in a public place. Irish law and Irish insurance policies will need to be reviewed following a judgement in September 2014 of the Court of Justice of the European Union (the CJEU).
The case in question is that of Vnuk v Zavarovalnica Triglav. Mr Vnuk, a farmworker in Slovenia was injured when a tractor and trailer on private farmland struck a ladder on which he was standing. The CJEU’s view was that various EU directives since the first Directive in 1972 sought to extend, rather than restrict the scope of compulsory motor insurance and the intention was to expand compulsory motor insurance in such a way as to ensure victims of motor accidents are protected.
This judgement clarified that motor insurance policies must cover accidents on private land. This effectively means that insurance policies which differentiate between private property and land to which the public has access are out of date.
Until now, Irish law required that motor insurance policies cover the use of motor vehicles (defined as mechanically propelled vehicles intended or adapted for use on roads) on ‘a road or other public place’. There may have been some ambiguity around what constituted a public place but this ruling effectively establishes that the location of an accident is irrelevant. Compulsory third party motor insurance has to cover any accident caused in the use of a vehicle that is ‘consistent with the normal function’ of that vehicle.
Ireland must comply with this ruling and so motor insurance should be in place for motor vehicles irrespective of whether an accident occurs in a public or private place. The Department of Transport is said to be examining the implications of the judgement for Ireland which are likely to include amendments to the Road Traffic Acts.
Irish nationals who have vehicles used in what was formally deemed not to be a public place, for example, private farmland, private land at residences, private yards or private car parks, warehousing sites, construction sites, should now arrange appropriate Road Traffic Act cover for such vehicles. The vehicle list (though not exhaustive) includes fork lift/pallet trucks, shunting trucks, special-types vehicles, farming/power generating implements with trailers, motorised lawnmowers and quads. Patrona Underwriting Ltd is notifying its broker panel of this important change via our website, pertinent updates will be provided as they become available.