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Title: Injured by farm vehicle - why can't I claim?

Date: 22 January 2015

QUESTION

Two years ago I suffered from serious injuries while working on a farm, when my employer’s son rode a road legal quad bike into me. I went to a number of different solicitors however they all advised me that nothing could be done because the accident happened on private land. Are they right and if so how is it fair that I cannot make a claim when I have been badly injured through no fault of my own?

Jason, Beds

ANSWER

Firstly a claim could be considered against the farm’s public liability insurer or the farmer personally in the event the motor insurer was not liable.

But, ignoring the above and assuming the farm you were on was not accessible to the public, until recently, the solicitors you went to would have been right. However the situation has recently changed.

Article 3(1) of the First Motor Insurance Directive 1972 made it a requirement that all member states of the European Union implemented measures to ensure that vehicles in their territories were covered by compulsory motor insurance. This was implemented into English and Welsh Law by section 143 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, which limited the requirement to vehicles when being used on ‘roads’ and other ‘public places’. Most, if not all, insurance policies reflect this wording and expressly exclude use on private land.

However in September 2014 the European Court of Justice heard the case of Vnuk v Zavarovalnica (involving a Slovenian tractor accident) and determined that the purpose of the First Directive was to ensure that compulsory insurance should cover any normal use of a vehicle anywhere on land.

The net effect of this is that the restriction in the Road Traffic Act 1988 is in conflict with EU law. I suspect that the Road Traffic Act will be updated to reflect the above case, however in the meantime it has been established in other cases that European member states (in this case the UK Government) can be liable to pay compensation to individuals who have suffered a loss by reason of that member state’s failure to implement an EU directive into national law.

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