Legal i

Insured or not insured

Question I have a couple of questions about insurance. First, I often have to deliver urgent parcels to customers of my company, even though that is not my main job. I have heard a rumour that my company is often late in renewing its vehicle insurance and I’m worried that one day I might be prosecuted for driving a company vehicle without insurance.

My second question is about car sharing. A friend told me that if I take money for doing this then I’m driving for ‘hire or reward’ and that my ordinary insurance for social and domestic purposes, even though I’m covered for driving myself to and from work, does not cover these journeys. Is this true? If it is, then the small sum that I receive from each of the passengers in our car sharing club might not cover the increased insurance premium.

Answer Your company is responsible for insuring its vehicles and if they fail to renew insurance on a vehicle you are required to drive for them, they could be prosecuted for ‘causing or permitting’ the vehicle to be driven without insurance. You are, however, still at risk of being prosecuted. There is a defence where you are driving in the course of your employment in ignorance of the lack of cover. It is not enough to show that you are their employee, as the defence is available only if you were driving in the course of your employment at the relevant time. You would not be covered if you took the vehicle home for the weekend and used it for social purposes. You have to prove that you neither knew, nor had reason to believe that insurance was not in place. While in most criminal cases the prosecution has to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt, you have to prove ignorance of cover only on what is called the ‘balance of probabilities’, or that it is more likely than not that you were unaware of the insurance cover. Your difficulty might be that you knew of rumours that the company is often late in renewing its insurance. Although you could argue this is not the same as knowing or having reason to believe there was no insurance in place, you are at the very least aware there could be a problem. You might have a defence if, before driving, you ask someone with sufficient authority in the company if the vehicle is insured, but if you want to be perfectly safe you should ask to see the certificate of insurance. If you ask and this is refused, but are assured that the vehicle is covered, this might be enough.

Taking money for car sharing used to carry a risk that you could be said to be driving for ‘hire or reward’, as most motor insurance policies for social and domestic purposes specifically exclude this. However, because the government wanted to encourage car sharing the law was changed to require all compulsory motor insurance policies to include cover for certain forms of car sharing, even if passengers are carried for separate ‘fares’. The most important conditions on this are that the vehicle must not be adapted to carry more than eight passengers; it must not be a motorcycle; and the total fares paid must not exceed the amount of the running costs of the vehicle for the journey.

Designed by solicitors, tested by barristers and available around the clock, Road Traffic Representation is an online legal system that allows people accused of a motoring offence to get free advice on how the law will be applied in their case, and referral to a telephone helpline and representation by a barrister in court if required. Practising solicitor Martin Langan spent two years designing the system and creating the data repository which allows the software to analyse road traffic offences with the same authority as a solicitor.

Twitter: martinlangan
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