ABI says EU insurance plan for motorists liability not justified

Motor premiums could rise by £50 as a result of EU proposals to make drivers liable for accidents with cyclists, said the RAC.

Under the proposals drivers' insurers would have to pay out, regardless of which side was at fault, for cyclists' medical and repair costs.

The plan has infuriated motorist groups and insurers.

The idea is one part of a shake-up planned for European motor insurance.

It is contained in the EU's Fifth Motor Insurance Directive, which was released in June.

ABI motor manager Jo Dagustun said the association was seeking clarification because the commission's intention was not clear.

If it was to make drivers' insurers pay out for accidents regardless of who caused it, Dagustun said: "It would be a massive change to the UK's liability regime.

"We just haven't seen the evidence in the UK that such a change is demanded. The current system of compensating pedestrians and cyclists seems to work well."

The UK could be forced to adopt the principles into law if they are passed by the European Parliament.

The cycling plans, which apply equally to pedestrians, aim to protect some of the most vulnerable road users.

The commission said that making drivers' insurers pay out "irrespective of whether the driver is at fault" had not had a "significant impact" on insurance costs where the principle is already enshrined in law.

In France, Belgium, Scandinavia, the Netherlands and Germany, the motorist is nearly always held liable regardless of who caused the accident.

It said its proposal aimed "to ensure that pedestrians and cyclists are covered by the compulsory insurance of the vehicle involved in the accident. This enhances their protection, as the weakest parties in traffic.

"This insurance coverage does not prejudge any civil liability which the pedestrian or cyclist may incur, or the level of compensation which is determined by national legislation."

The Fourth Motor Insurance Directive, launched in 2000, is also still in consultation.

This requires insurers to have representatives in 18 European states to help streamline claims by residents visiting other states.

But if insurers are forced to appoint claims representatives across Europe they could use agencies to save costs on the often costly cross-border claims process.