The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling of Vnuk extended compulsory motor insurance to vehicles used on private land
Earlier this week, the secretary of state for transport, Grant Shapps, backed a private member’s bill that aims to revoke a European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling from 2014.
The ‘Vnuk ruling’ stemmed from the case of Slovenian farmer, who was knocked off his ladder by a reversing tractor-trailer on a private farm in 2007. Mr Vnuk’s success in a claim for damages led to the European Commission establishing that there was a need for compulsory motor insurance on private land, covering a wider array of vehicles, such as agricultural machinery.
Thompsons Solicitors acted for Michael Lewis who was left a tetraplegic when the owner of private land that Michael was on, ran him over in his 4x4. As he was driving on private land the driver was uninsured and when a claim was made to the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB), who provide cover for those injured by uninsured drivers, they said that they wouldn’t pay out - as under existing UK law compulsory insurance was only needed to cover collisions on a ‘road or other public place’.
Thompsons solicitor David Gauler ran a case challenging the ruling to the High Court where he was successful, a decision which was upheld a year later in the Court of Appeal and, when that was appealed to the Supreme Court, he won again. The MIB, who had been encouraged by the government to refuse to pay out, had nowhere else to appeal to after the Supreme Court other than, ironically, the European Court of Justice.
Now, the government is using the Brexit vote - which removed the UK from EU laws - as a way to overturn a decision of the highest court in the UK, all to exclude people like Mr Lewis from being able to seek compensation for an injury caused to them through no fault of their own.
David Gauler said: “This is vindictive and petty and will only hurt the injured and for what – a handful of cases when the government could simply either require private landowners to insure or have the MIB pay out as will happen in every EU member state.
“The government is using the Brexit result to restrict the rights of injured people in the UK - rights otherwise enjoyed by injured people across the EU – and look after their friends in the insurance industry.
“The government’s claim that Vnuk is an ‘over-the-top law’ is insulting to the three highest courts in the land who all endorsed its incorporation into UK law in the case of Lewis. The claim that the judgment will cost the insurance industry £2 billion and lead to rising premiums ignores the fact that road accident claim numbers are down and overlooks that those figures were soundly debunked by the European Commission when they reviewed the impact of Vnuk.
“Rising premiums are down to the insurance industry’s voracious appetite for profit, not a statistically insignificant number of claims by people injured on private land.”
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