New Government legislation - enabled by Brexit - will remove the requirement for drivers of vehicles on private land to get insurance and make it harder for people to claim compensation if they are injured, according to a leading lawyer.

From the 28 June 2022, unlike in the rest of Europe, compulsory motor insurance will only be required in the UK for motor vehicles on a road or “other public place”.

The government has claimed that the intervention is necessary because a European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling in 2014 will lead to higher insurance premiums and cost the industry £2 billion.

However, road accident experts Thompsons Solicitors argue this is yet another example of government legislation putting “profits above the injured”.

Historically, there has been no requirement for vehicles on private land to be insured, but this changed with a decision of the ECJ in 2014. The landmark court case, known as Vnuk, ruled that compulsory motor insurance was required for all vehicles, including those driven on private land.

The Vnuk ruling related to the case of a Slovenian farmer, who was knocked off his ladder by a reversing tractor-trailer on a private farm in 2007. Mr Vnuk's successful claim for damages prompted the European Commission to determine that motor insurance was required on private land, to cover a variety of vehicles, such as agricultural machinery.

In 2013, in the UK, Michael Lewis was left a tetraplegic when he was run over by an uninsured 4x4 vehicle on private land. He turned to Thompsons Solicitors for legal help.

When a claim was made to the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB) – which provides cover for those injured by uninsured drivers – it was refused on the grounds that insurance was not necessary on private land.

David Gauler, a personal injury expert at Thompsons Solicitors, challenged the MIB’s decision in the High Court, where he was successful. The ruling was upheld by the Court of Appeal a year later, and when it was appealed to the Supreme Court, he won again.

The Supreme Court’s decision closed the door on any further appeals by the MIB - other than the European Court of Justice - and meant they had to finally meet their obligations and pay out significant damages to Mr Lewis.

Despite the highest court in the UK finding that Mr Lewis should be compensated, in June 2021, the government announced that it was going to change the law so that the UK, alone amongst countries in Europe, would not allow compensation for those injured by vehicles on private land revoking the 2014 ECJ ruling.

Unfortunately, it’s just another example of the government weaponising the Brexit vote to help insurance companies save money, while rolling back the rights of ordinary people.

David Gauler, senior serious injury lawyer

Mr Gauler has warned that the new legislation will have serious ramifications for injured parties. He said, “Unfortunately, it’s just another example of the government weaponising the Brexit vote to help insurance companies save money, while rolling back the rights of ordinary people.

“The claim that the change in law is necessary because the Vnuk ruling will lead to rising premiums, is quite frankly, fanciful. It ignores the fact that road accident claim numbers are down.

“Rising premiums are down to the insurance industry’s thirst for profit, not because of a statistically insignificant number of claims by those injured on privately-owned land. The £2 billion ‘cost to the industry’ figure was roundly debunked by the European Commission when they reviewed the impact of Vnuk.

“The government is choosing to deliberately ignore the judgment of the UK’s and Europe’s highest courts - they think they know better. Or, perhaps, they just know who their real friends are.

“In the face of a cost-of-living crisis exacerbated by Brexit, it is telling that the government chooses to use parliamentary time to respond to insurance company concerns over their profits at the expense of injured people.”