Lady Solicitor Personal Injury Claim Lady Justice Old Bailer

Compensation for Uninsured Mobility Scooter Accidents

MOBILITY SCOOTERS – AN INCREASING DANGER TO PEDESTRIANS AND SHOPPERS

Personal injury solicitor, James McNally looks at the growing problem of mobility scooter accidents on our pavements and in shops and asks whether the EU could help innocent victims


With no need for a driving licence or insurance, mobility scooters are a cheap and affordable means for the elderly and infirm to get about. So much so, that there are now an estimated 300,000 mobility scooters in the UK. However though they offer freedom to many they are becoming an increasing danger to other members of the public. We have recorded a sharp rise in enquiries from people over the last 12 months in particular who have suffered injury as a result of a mobility scooter accident. With no compulsory insurance though, there is often very little an injured scooter victim can do to recover compensation.

Some mobility scooters can weigh up to 200kg and reach speeds of 4 to 8 mph. They can be driven indoors, on pavements and in other areas usually restricted to pedestrians. If fitted with an amber light they can travel alongside cars on dual carriageways, despite the cars travelling almost 45mph faster and despite mobility scooter drivers being under no legal eyesight requirement. The Department of Transport released guidance for mobility scooter drivers earlier this year and tried to encourage speeds of only 4mph in pedestrian areas, but ‘guidance’ is very different from legal obligation and mobility scooters remain unregulated. Meanwhile countries such as Ireland, the Netherlands and France have made insurance for mobility scooters compulsory.

Many users do not know that insurance for mobility scooters is readily available If an insured mobility scooter user causes an accident then their insurers will deal with the claim just like a normal road traffic accident. However if insurance isn’t made compulsory there will always be more uninsured drivers then insured.

Whenever the possibility of making insurance or licences for mobility scooters compulsory is raised, the counter argument is that it would be wrong to put further restrictions on those for whom the scooters offer potential life-changing freedom. However, interestingly there are some who believe that the fourfold increase in mobility scooter use we have seen over the last five years is because many users see them as a cheap alternative to buying a car.

Legally, mobility scooters cannot be used by  non-disabled persons as they are defined at s 185 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 as “invalid carriages”, meaning a “mechanically propelled vehicle … constructed, and not merely adapted, for the use of a person suffering from some physical defect or disability”. But policing this rule and checking users for ‘physical defects and disabilities’ would be near impossible.

Victims of uninsured scooter drivers can bring a claim against the scooter driver themselves, but in many cases the driver won’t have sufficient money to pay any compensation or legal fees. If they own a property then a charge can be placed on the house and if necessary sale forced, but it is a long, complicated and upsetting procedure.     

If you are injured by the driver of an uninsured car then a body called the Motor Insurer’s Bureau (MIB) will deal with the claim. As insurance is not mandatory for scooter drivers, the Uninsured Drivers Agreement 1999 does not apply and as such the MIB won’t deal with any mobility scooter claim. Clause 5 of the Agreement states that the MIB will deal with “unsatisfied judgment” for a “relevant liability”. A relevant liability being a liability in respect of which a contract of insurance must be in force. So, no compulsory insurance means no ‘relevant liability’ and therefore no MIB cover. In addition, section 143 of the Road Traffic Act specifically excludes “invalid carriages” from the definition of motor vehicles “to be insured or secured against third party risk.” There is no doubt that the MIB will defend any claim brought against it relating to an uninsured mobility scooter driver.

There are arguments that European law could force the MIB to deal with uninsured scooter claims, but this has yet to be tested in the UK Courts. The argument is that EC Directive 72/166 creates an insurance obligation for vehicle owners with Article 3.1 of the Directive stating “each member state shall … take all appropriate measures to ensure that civil liability in respect of the use of vehicles normally based in its territory is covered by insurance.” Article 1.1 of the directive defines vehicle as “any motor vehicle intended for travel on land and propelled by mechanical power, but not running on rails…” This definition would appear to make insurance for mobility scooters compulsory.

EC Member States can request specific vehicles be excluded from compulsory insurance legislation, but to do so they must provide a list to the EC and its fellow Member States. The English Government have not done so. In addition the legislation states that if vehicles are excluded then they must be treated in the same way as vehicles that do have to be insured but aren’t. Therefore the argument is that the MIB should also responsible for uninsured mobility scooter drivers.

The law is currently untested, but from 1st April 2013 revolutionary changes to the funding of personal injury claims will come into force. One change is that the Defendant will no longer be able to recover their costs from the Claimant if a claim fails meaning that Claimants will no longer require Legal Expenses Insurance. Legal expenses providers currently baulk at the possibility of backing a claim which is untested. However, when they are out of the picture (and if the cost risk is negligible) then the door is open for a solicitor representing a mobility scooter victim to challenge the MIB. At least that offers some comfort while the Government umm and ah over the regulation of mobility scooters. 

If you have been the victim of a mobility scooter accident or have suffered injury from an uninsured mobility scooter driver then give James a call on 0808 139 1590 for some FREE legal guidance or email him direct at james.mcnally@sleeblackwell.co.uk