Authors: Joost Peeters, Ruben Brosens en Simon Geens at STUDIO | LEGALE Advocaten in Belgium
In recent years, various alternative forms of mobility have been introduced to road traffic. Electric bicycles, scooters and speed pedelecs have become part of the everyday public scene. The legal framework has had to be adapted to these new forms of mobility.
The question arises about the insurance of these 'new' ways of moving around.
The answer to this question can be found in the law on compulsory liability insurance for motor vehicles.
This law stipulates that only motor vehicles whose civil liability is insured, are allowed in Belgium. A motor vehicle is defined as 'a ride or vehicle, intended to move on the ground and which can be driven by a mechanical force, without being attached to rails'.
A strict reading of this definition would have meant that electric bicycles, wheelchairs, scooters etc. would also fall under the insurance obligation.
This was prevented by a legislative interference in 2019. A new article 2bis was added to the law, as a result of which motor vehicles that cannot travel faster than 25 km/h due to mechanical force do not have to be compulsorily insured.
However, a law would hardly be a law if there weren't any exceptions to it. A class A moped, which can also travel at a maximum speed of 25 km/h, must be insured. A moped is considered more dangerous due to the combination of its speed and its mass.
A very recent change in the law brought about an additional exception. The criterion of speed meant that vehicles such as cranes, forklift trucks etc. were not compulsorily insured. However, this went against the legislator's objective. Last week, article 2bis was therefore once again amended in the sense that 'motor vehicles that are intended for purposes other than mere travel' also have to be compulsorily insured.
So for a long time the general rule was: if a vehicle can propel itself and if it can travel faster than 25 km/h, then the owner of the vehicle is obliged to take out third-party insurance. The exception to this rule was for a long time: the moped class A and recently also the ‘machinery vehicles’.
In a very recent judgment of the 28th of January 2021, the Constitutional Court overturned the distinguishing criterion of 25 km/h for the insurance obligation. The Court states that it is not reasonable for all vehicles other than class A mopeds to be exempt from the insurance obligation, regardless of their mass, purely on the basis of their speed. The court therefore considers it wrong that for example an electric bicycle, which often does not differ much in mass from a class A moped, does not have to be insured solely because of its speed.
It is possible that as a result of this judgment all kinds of self-propelled vehicles, even if they cannot exceed a speed of 25 km/h, will have to be compulsorily insured after all.
This would also imply that the drivers of these motor vehicles would no longer be regarded as 'vulnerable road users' and would therefore no longer be able to benefit from the automatic legal compensation scheme provided for by the law. However, this was one of the main reasons in 2019 to opt for an exclusion from the insurance obligation...
So it remains to be seen how the legislator will respond to this legal matter. The new forms of mobility are of course to be welcomed, but we believe that an adequate insurance is equally important. After all, electric bicycles or scooters can reach considerable speeds, so accidents are not out of the question.
If one then becomes the victim of an accident with, for example, an electric bicycle, one may be left empty-handed if no insurer intervenes or if the liable party is insolvent or rests unknown.
The Joint Guarantee Fund will also not be able to help in such a case, as it only intervenes in accidents involving an insured motor vehicle within the meaning of the law.
We therefore recommend that you insure yourself for everything, both in terms of civil liability and legal aid!
We will follow up on this legal matter for you and are, of course, always available for additional information or questions.
Do not hesitate to contact us for further questions and/or assistance. You can always reach us at telephone number: 03/216.70.70 or by e-mail at mail address: email@example.com.