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Removal of ‘Vnuk’: A shift change for British Motor Insurance Law?


On 21 February 2021, the government announced their intention to remove the EU’s ‘Vnuk’ motor insurance law from British law.

The decision to remove the leading case of ‘Vnuk’ is a significant step which has been triggered by Brexit. The government’s justification for the removal is based on ‘cheaper insurance premiums’ and ‘taking back control of British laws and regulations’.

‘Vnuk’ is the case that brought a change to the way the EU interpreted the scope of compulsory motor insurance. Whilst the government have never favoured ‘Vnuk’, it has provided great assistance for claimants in personal injury claims in Great Britain since its ruling. Insurers and their representatives argued that it went too far.

What is ‘Vnuk’ in motor insurance law?

Mr Vnuk was a worker on a farm in Slovenia who was injured as a result of being knocked off a ladder by a tractor trailer which was reversing across a private farm. The trailer had compulsory insurance. Mr Vnuk brought a claim for damages to compensate his injuries against the compulsory insurance company. The motor insurance company refused to pay as they said there was no compulsory insurance requirement because the tractor was not a vehicle, it was a machine. Mr Vnuk’s claim was rejected at first in the domestic courts but was referred to the European Court of Justice (ECJ), which ruled in his favour.

The ECJ had to look at what the scope of compulsory insurance cover should be. They decided that the meaning of ‘use of vehicles’ covered any use of a vehicle that was consistent with the normal function of that vehicle. This meant that insurance cover should extend to cover the use of any motor vehicle, being used in almost any way and being used anywhere (public or private land). This therefore expanded the requirement for motor insurance to private land and covered a wider range of vehicles including light electric vehicles, motorsports, lawnmowers, electric scooters and agricultural machinery.

The ECJ’s interpretation gave a wider remit than Great Britain’s domestic compulsory insurance requirement under the Road Traffic Act 1988 (RTA), meaning that personal injury claims that would have otherwise fallen outside of the RTA were now capable of being pursued. The RTA is limited to accidents on roads and other public places and has a narrower definition of “motor vehicle”.

What will happen if ‘Vnuk’ is removed?

As a result of the removal of ‘Vnuk’, many people could find themselves injured and unable to pursue a viable (i.e. insurance backed) claim for compensation. The government’s plans to scrap the ruling in Vnuk mean that vehicles which are not within the definition of motor vehicle under the RTA (such as light electric vehicles, motorsports, lawnmowers, electric scooters and agricultural machinery) will no longer need to be insured neither will vehicles on private land.

If you have had an accident and need legal assistance with your claim, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the Personal Injury team at Trethowans. We specialise in all types of Personal Injury Claims, including agricultural injuries and claims involving aspects of EU and foreign law.

At Trethowans, we offer an initial free meeting with a member of the Personal Injury team where all aspects of the claim can be discussed. Get in touch to arrange your consultation on 0800 2800 421.

This article was prepared by Emily Thompson and Frances Gillett.

Damijan Vnuk v Zavarovalnica Trigalev (C-162/13)

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