Feb 18, 2021

Are You On The Right Road?

by Chris Tosh, Group Director


If you own, operate or are involved with plant machinery in Scotland, we’d like to shine a spotlight on a particular risk that you might be exposed to.

If you operate plant machinery in Scotland, you might believe that your existing Public Liability insurance covers you for any injury or loss caused by one of your machines. If a postman crossing your yard is accidentally struck by one of your forklifts the automatic assumption is that any claim will be covered by your Public Liability insurance. This isn’t the case. In fact, to be covered in this scenario would require a separate Third Party Motor policy. It’s a confusing anomaly that has caught too many people out. But why is this?


Roaming and a gloaming

Trespassing prosecutions in Scotland are very rare and apply only in limited “house privacy” situations. This is great if you’re a rambler, but not so great if you’re trying to adequately protect yourself. Scotland’s right to roam means that the general public can virtually go wherever they want. If you are involved in forestry, a member of the public can legally walk through an area where vehicles, including plant, are being operated. Even if there are advisory signs warning them of the danger, they cannot legally be stopped from entering. And if that member of the public is injured after coming into contact with a piece of plant machinery your Public Liability insurance will unlikely cover you.


The Motor Vehicles (Compulsory Insurance) Regulations 2000

When introduced in 2000, ‘The Motor Vehicles (Compulsory Insurance) Regulations’ effectively extended the definition of ‘road’. Now, ‘any public place’ is, for insurance purposes at least, treated as a road. It replaces the Road Traffic Act (RTA) and makes it a legal requirement to have Third Party Motor insurance in place for any vehicle operating in a public place.

It’s worth clarifying here the definition of vehicle. For this particular regulation, if it’s self-propelled and operates as a ‘tool’ or if it carries passengers or goods, it is a vehicle. The dangerous assumption that we hear repeatedly is that the vehicle in question isn’t registered for road use and therefore is exempt from this law. This isn’t the case, if it’s a self-propelled vehicle - then this regulation applies.


Example Scenarios

It’s safe to say that if there’s an incident involving a self-propelled vehicle then you’re at risk if you don’t have dedicated third party motor cover in place. Here’s some specific examples that are relatively common.

  • A postal worker crossing a builders yard is struck by a fork lift, sustaining injury
  • An old and unregistered tractor sparks on a forestry road causing a significant forest fire
  • A dog walker strays into an area of operation in a forest and is struck by a timber harvester, causing injury
  • A hillwalker is struck by a tracked excavator working on foundations for construction of a wind turbine, causing injury
  • An Argocat conveying members of a shooting party on undulating terrain in an estate overturns, causing multiple passenger injuries


What if I don’t have Third Party Motor Insurance?

If someone injures themselves in an incident with one of your vehicles and you don’t have a motor policy in place, you’re at risk of facing an uninsured loss. Depending on the extent of the incident or injury, that could be significant. In addition, to make matters worse, you could also face a ‘driving without insurance’ conviction. It’s also worth pointing out that in the absence of a motor policy, your Public Liability insurance doesn't kick-in. In other words it isn’t a safety net or fallback - it simply doesn’t apply.
We’ve heard of minor cases still receiving Public Liability insurance based payouts for claims. This is usually a case of an error from a junior or inexperienced loss adjuster. What we do know, is this - if it’s a more significant claim, then any such error will be immediately picked up by a more experienced colleague.


What To Do

If you’re in any doubt about whether you’ve got the right cover in place, check your policy, or better still get in touch with your insurance broker. The good news is that, in relative terms at least, the price of a Third Party motor policy covering plant is modest. It also offers more cover as it grants unlimited cover for personal injury, whereas Public Liability insurance will always be capped.
If you don’t have the cover in place, we’d recommend that you add a Third Party policy to reduce your exposure to a very real liability.


If you’ve got any questions, please feel free to get in touch. And, if you have another assumption or insurance anomaly you’d like us to cover in a future blog post, please email chris.tosh@blackfordinsurance.com.

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Blackford is a trading name of Blackford Group Limited, (Firm Reference 831508). Registered Office: Blackford Group Limited, 26 Charlotte Square, Edinburgh EH2 4ET (Registered SC616744). Blackford Group Limited is an Appointed Representative of James Hallam Limited, authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (Firm Reference 134435).


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