auto insurance in UK
united kingdom auto insurance against liability for injuries to others and for damage to other persons’ property, resulting from the use of a vehicle on a public road or in other public places. In 1930,
the UK Government introduced a law that required every person who used a vehicle on the road to have at least third-party personal injury insurance. Today, this law is defined by the Road Traffic Act 1988.which was last modified in 1991.
The Act requires that motorists either be insured, or have made a specified deposit (£500,000 in 1991) and keeps the sum deposited with the Accountant General of the Supreme Court, against liability for injuries to others (including passengers) and for damage to other persons’ property, resulting from use of a vehicle on a public road or in other public places.
It is an offense to use a motor vehicle or allow others to use it without insurance that satisfies the requirements of the Act. This requirement applies while any part of a vehicle (even if a greater part of it is on private land) is on the public highway.
No such legislation applies to private land. However, private land to which the public have a reasonable right of access (for example, a supermarket car park during opening hours) is considered to be included within the requirements of the Act.
Police have the power to seize vehicles that do not appear to have necessary insurance in place. A driver caught driving without insurance for the vehicle he/she is in charge of for the purposes of driving, is liable to be prosecuted by the police and, upon conviction, will receive either a fixed penalty or magistrate’s courts penalty.
The registration number of the vehicle shown on the insurance policy, along with other relevant information including the effective dates of the cover are transmitted electronically to the UK’s Motor Insurance Database (MID) which exists to help reduce incidents of uninsured driving in the territory. The Police are able to spot-check vehicles that pass within range of automated number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras,
that can search the MID instantly. It should be noted, however, that proof of insurance lies entirely with the issue of a Certificate of Motor Insurance, or cover note, by an Authorised Insurer which, to be valid, must have been previously ‘delivered’ to the insured person in accordance with the Act, and be printed in black ink on white paper.
The insurance certificate or cover note issued by the insurance company constitutes the only legal evidence that the policy to which the certificate relates satisfies the requirements of the relevant law applicable in Great Britain, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man, the Island of Guernsey, the Island of Jersey and the Island of Alderney. The Act states that an authorized person, such as a police officer, may require a driver to produce an insurance certificate for inspection. If the driver cannot show the document immediately on request, and evidence of insurance cannot be found by other means such as the MID, then the Police are empowered to seize the vehicle instantly.
The immediate impounding of an apparently uninsured vehicle replaces the former method of dealing with insurance spot-checks where drivers were issued with a HORT/1 (so-called because the order was form number 1 issued by the Home Office Road Traffic dept). This ‘ticket’ was an order requiring that within seven days, from midnight of the date of issue, the driver concerned was to take a valid insurance certificate (and usually other driving documents as well) to a police station of the driver’s choice. Failure to produce an insurance certificate was, and still is, an offense. The HORT/1 was commonly known – even by the issuing authorities when dealing with the public – as a “Producer”. As these are seldom issued now and the MID relied upon to indicate the presence of insurance or not, it is incumbent upon the insurance industry to accurately and swiftly update the MID with current policy details and insurers that fail to do so can be penalized by their regulating body.
Vehicles kept in the UK must now be continuously insured unless a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN) has been formally submitted. This requirement arose following a change in the law in June 2011 when a regulation known as Continuous Insurance Enforcement (CIE) came into force. The effect of this was that in the UK a vehicle that is not declared SORN must have a valid insurance policy in force whether or not it is kept on public roads and whether or not it is driven.
The insurer, and Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) / license data are shared by the relevant authorities including the Police and this forms an integral part of the mechanism of CIE. All UK registered vehicles, including those that are exempt from VED, are subject to the VED taxation application process. Part of this is a check on the vehicle’s insurance.
A physical receipt for the payment of VED was issued by way of a paper disc which, prior to 1 October 2014, meant that all motorists in the UK were required to prominently display the tax disc on their vehicle when it was kept or driven on public roads.
This helped to ensure that most people had adequate insurance on their vehicles because insurance cover was required to purchase a disc, although the insurance must merely have been valid at the time of purchase and not necessarily for the life of the tax disc.
To address the problems that arise where a vehicle’s insurance was subsequently canceled but the tax disc remained in force and displayed on the vehicle and the vehicle then used without insurance, the CIE regulations are now able to be applied as the Driver & Vehicle Licence Authority (DVLA) and the MID databases are shared in real-time meaning that a taxed but uninsured vehicle is easily detectable by both authorities and Traffic Police.
From 1 October 2014, it is no longer a legal requirement to display a vehicle excise license (tax disc) on a vehicle. This has come about because the whole VED process can now be administered electronically and alongside the MID, doing away with the expense, to the UK Government, of issuing paper discs.