Many owners unwittingly lay themselves open to liability claims and expensive bills by allowing drivers who are not covered by their insurance policy to use quad bikes and other all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) on private land. Perhaps because there is an element of fun to quad bikes and ATVs, and they appear to the inexperienced eye to be easy to use, often people want to ‘have a go’. If an accident occurs, however, the owner of the quad bike may not have insurance cover. There are countless examples of very serious incidents where drivers have been almost killed when coming off ATVs. Rock star Ozzy Osbourne’s accident a few years ago is just one example. If this type of incident happens, the vehicle owner could be held responsible and face dealing with the liability claims and medical bills of the injured party.
The problem arises because of two main misconceptions. Firstly, because quad bike insurance cover is often part of an all-farm policy, many believe that they are covered for any type of use on their own land. But if the ATV is loaned to someone who is not an employee, this is not the case unless social, domestic and pleasure use are specifically included. There is also the misconception that because the borrower is not taking the vehicle on the open road then it is covered by the farm policy. Like any vehicle, however, if ridden or driven on private land, the usual rules apply.
The law relating to vehicles which do not use roads is soon likely to be even more specific. The European Court of Justice issued a judgement in December 2016 which could force UK vehicle owners into taking insurance out on all motor vehicles used on private land. These will include electrically assisted pedal cycles, Segways, ride-on lawnmowers, mobility scooters, golf buggies, motorised ride-on children’s toys and quad bikes. The current consultation period for the new legislation runs until March and, while Britain remains within the EU, the Department for Transport is obliged to be part of this process although the rules can be abolished once Britain leaves the EU.
All owners of ATVs are urged to check with their insurance broker, or insurer, that their policy is correctly worded to cover quad bike insurance for all drivers – and uses – of the vehicles.