The offence of driving without a full and proper insurance policy in place is amongst the easiest of offences to commit whilst also being the single most crucial to avoid being in breach of. First and foremost, even though you may possess car insurance, you may well be in a position whereby your policy doesn’t cover either the named person driving that car (including you) and/or for the purpose for which you are driving the car. Let me explain this in some more detail using examples – both of which our legal practice have experienced in recent months.
First example: You may be a keen DIY enthusiast but also be a person who likes very much to make sure that you keep up to date with all your household tasks. Further, as is usual, that passion for maintaining your house may have also been enthusiastically noted by your family, acquaintances, neighbours, associates and anyone else within your social circle. Accordingly, it could easily be that any one or even more of these different individuals might at some point ask you to carry out some work for them, together with some financial compensation for your time and energy. So, here’s the real life example: Picture yourself driving back home from what has become your favourite local DIY store having bought a few items to assist a relative with a task they require completing whereupon you are stopped by a member of the local constabulary. Upon being asked if you are insured, you inform the police that you’re covered by insurance but unfortunately having confessed that you’re doing fee based work they check out the position via their database and it is shown that you are not indemnified for “commercial use” (otherwise known as “business use”) – it’s very possible that they will charge you for the driving without insurance offence pursuant to s143 Road Traffic Act 1988.
In this example then, you were insured, but not for the purpose that you were using the vehicle.
Second example: OK, so let’s now think about a different scenario. As above, you actually understood that you were covered by insurance to drive your car. Indeed, you had received verification by way of email after incepting the policy online. However, a few weeks after the insurance policy was commenced, you are involved in a road traffic accident. The police check the matter on their database and state that you are not insured. That is news to you of course! However, even though you did not know you were not insured, if the policy had indeed been cancelled without your knowledge then you are guilty of the offence as it is ‘strict liability’. Most people would regard this as being unfair. However, it is the law – technically it is your duty as a driver to ensure that you are covered by insurance and lack of knowledge of cancellation is no defence to the same.
End result of example 2? You were uninsured without being aware of it and your only real route to redress would be to plead ‘special reasons’, namely that you were misled by the insurance company into believing that you were indeed insured.
In summary, whilst we have successfully defended a client in the first example and successfully argued ‘special reasons’ in the second the real answer is to be very careful indeed as to whether you are insured. If you do end up on the wrong side of this offence then call upon professional expertise immediately as this simple looking offence is extremely complex to defend or mitigate.