Motor insurers this week suffered another setback following a landmark House of Lords ruling on accident claims.

The Lords said motorists are not entitled to compensation if they are involved in an accident due to the state of the roads.

In effect, the Highways Authority is under no obligation to clear snow and ice off the roads or to take measures to prevent ice forming.

The decision appears to contradict several legal precedents over many decades and changes the meaning of the Highways Acts of 1959 and 1980.

The motor insurance panel of the Association of British Insurers will be meeting within the next week or so to consider the implications of the judgment, a spokesman said.

It was understood previously that if the Highways Authority knew bad weather was imminent but did nothing to prevent accidents then it was liable if there was an accident.

But Lord Hoffman said there was no obligation for the authorities to remove ice and snow even if it caused an accident.

The ruling is likely to be a blow to motor insurers who have had a tough few years with reports of premium rates rising by up to 25% to meet spiralling claims costs.

The ABI spokesman said insurers' subrogation rights could be affected – this is where an insurer can take over the right to sue a third party from a claimant.

Normally, a motor insurer, could in some circumstances, lodge a claim against the Highways Authority or a local authority after paying out on an accident claim.