Partner, Hannah Jones, considers the implications of a recent ruling from the European court of Justice, which was asked “Do you need to insure a car that is kept secured off-road and which you have no intention of using?”
One might think that the logic of car tax would apply; where one can declare to the DVLA that the car is off the public roads (‘Statutory Off Road Notification’ or SORN) in which case no car tax is payable. But does this mean that you don’t have to insure the car either? The short answer is ‘you need to insure the car – but not necessarily in the way that you might think’.
The Court of Justice of the European Union recently ruled that the owner of a motor vehicle, which remained registered in a member state of the European Union and was capable of being driven, was obliged to insure that vehicle against civil liability even when the vehicle was parked on private land and the owner no longer intended to drive it.
In the case in point, the owner of a motor vehicle registered in Portugal, had, for health reasons, stopped driving the vehicle and had parked it in the yard of her house, cancelled the insurance, but had not taken any steps formally to withdraw it from use.
The vehicle was driven by her son, who had taken possession of it without his mother’s permission or knowledge, and went off the road, causing the death of himself and his two passengers.
At the relevant time, the car owner had not taken out insurance against civil liability in respect of the use of that vehicle.
Having paid compensation for the damage and injuries arising from the accident in question, the Fundo de Garantia Automóvel (Motor Vehicle Guarantee Fund, Portugal) then brought an action against the car owner for reimbursement of the sum paid.
The referring court asked, whether in such circumstances and in the light of the relevant European Directives, the owner of a vehicle was obliged to insure it and whether the Fund had a right to pursue for monies paid out against the owner, even if the owner was not liable for the accident.
In answer to those questions, the Court determined that a vehicle which was registered and therefore had not been officially withdrawn from use, and which was capable of being driven, corresponded to the concept of “vehicle” within the meaning of the rules and, consequently, did not cease to be subject to the insurance obligation on the sole ground that its owner no longer intended to drive it and had immobilised it on private land.
Accordingly, when the owner of the vehicle involved in the accident failed to comply with his or her obligation to insure that vehicle, as in the present case, the national compensation body could bring an action against the person or persons responsible for the accident, and also against the vehicle owner, irrespective of the civil liability of the latter in the occurrence of the accident.
If you would like assistance in connection with a driving matter, call Hannah or our Road Traffic Defence Unit on 02392 820 747 for further information.