I was badly injured in an accident when I was helping out my friend who owns a caravan park. He needed to move a couple of caravans on to new plots. My pal owns a tractor which he uses for work around the caravan park. He was using his tractor to tow the caravans to their new plots. I was standing on a plot, shouting directions to my pal who was driving the tractor, so that he could guide the caravan into place. My pal reversed too quickly and I was hit and knocked over by the tractor. Because of my injury, I doubt I’ll be able to go back to my job as a plumber. My pal feels terrible about the accident and has made enquiries with his insurers to find out if I can make a claim against his insurance policy. However, the insurance company say that, because I wasn’t an employee and only helping him guide the caravans into place, I can’t make a claim. Can you tell me if this is right enough?
It sounds like your friend has enquired with his Employer Liability Insurer about a possible claim. The policy will protect only employees of your friend’s business and will not extend to people who are “doing a favour” for your friend. However, if your friend has motor insurance over his tractor, you may be able to make a claim against the motor insurers. The law has changed quite drastically recently so that it may well be possible to bring a claim against a motor insurer when the accident has not happened on a public road but on private land. In addition, it may also be possible to make a claim against the motor insurers even when the tractor was not being used simply to transport someone, but was being used as a piece of machinery to tow the caravan into place. The European Court of Justice issued a decision last year (Vnuk v Zavarovalnica Triglav) which concerned a Slovenian national who was injured when a tractor with a trailer attached reversed in the courtyard of a farm. The trailer struck a ladder, which caused a man to fall from the ladder and suffer injury. In that case the European Court of Justice decided that the requirement for compulsory third party motor insurance must extend to cover:
• any motor vehicle;
• any use of that motor vehicle (provided that use is a normal function of
that vehicle); and
• anywhere in the Member State
You should ask your friend if he has a policy of motor insurance for the tractor. If he has motor insurance for the tractor, you should make a claim with that insurance company. If he does not have insurance for the tractor, you may still be able to make a claim to the Motor Insurers’ Bureau, which is a body that compensates victims of negligent, uninsured motorists.