Private roads, unlike normal roads which are owned by the local authority or council, belong to the people that own the property through which it runs. Such owners may include private individuals, residents’ associations, or estate managers. As such, it is the responsibility of the private owner to keep the road maintained and insured.
Why private roads need insurance
If you own a private road, you might well wonder why you need insurance if, in theory, only a small handful of people are using it. However, if you consult professional like financial adviser truro, you will note that the simple fact is that any road, however private in theory, is, by its very nature, accessible to the public, and, therefore, subject to accidents and claims for liability. Furthermore, your private road is likely to be used by more types of vehicles than you might initially think.
Apart from residents and their visitors, these might include delivery drivers, dustmen, utility company vehicles, and taxis. Postmen are a case in point. In the UK, for example, any postman who has an accident where the liability can be attributed to a road, pavement or verge will nearly always sue for damages, even if it occurs on a private road because their union supports them doing so.
Reasons to insure a private road
Even if your road is private, it may be adjacent to a public area, like a communal car park, or a right of way. When people and vehicles mix, there is always the potential for accidents. While the most common cause of accidents is due to poorly maintained road surfaces or falling trees, there is always the risk of more serious incidents, such as spillage from a delivery truck, or even a collision resulting in physical injury.
Legal claims can arise where there is no moral fault – the owners have taken all reasonable steps to safeguard the road and its users, but they are still legally liable, as a result of an accident, to pay compensation. There can also be malicious claims which need to be dealt with because ignoring them, can result in legal proceedings, and the risk of an adverse judgment, however spurious the claim. Insurance then is necessary for the private road owner.
Factors to consider when insuring a private road
First of all, if there is more than one owner of the road, then they should be contacted and made aware of the situation, as a joint policy should be taken out. This is because, where a private road is owned equally, home owners are personally liable for damages. The fact that one of the owners has insurance in place does not relieve the others of their legal responsibilities.
Type of cover
The level of cover needs to be factored into the equation. For example, beyond protecting you in the event of somebody suffering an injury or damage to their car as a result of using the private road, what else is covered? Some policies protect against damage to signs, gates, fences, street lights and security fences, for example. And there are others that will indemnify you for the cost of repairing underground cables, pipes and drains where these are not the responsibility of the utility company.
Insurance company reputation
What are their underwriting contacts, how competitive are their premiums and how quickly do claims get resolved? What legal advice do they provide and how easy is it to contact them? Do they provide a bespoke service or is private road insurance something they have tacked on their product range as an afterthought?
The fact remains that, if you own a private road, or are part of an association that owns such a road, you need some form of public liability insurance. Accidents can and will happen, so make sure you are properly covered when they do.