Taunton solicitor leads the field on driverless vehicles

Text book commission

Dr Nicholas Bevan, has been commissioned by leading publishers Thomson Reuters to contribute a new chapter on automated motor vehicle liability in the Encyclopaedia of Insurance Law.  This is a seminal work that is highly regarded in academic, commercial insurance and professional circles.

Image of automated vehicle taken from Innovation Is Great, a booklet published in October 2020 by the UK government, imaged linked to gov.uk publication.

An automated vehicle being trialed in the UK in 2020

The Automated and Electric Vehicles Act 2018 amends the UK’s existing compulsory third party insurance regime (which is primarily governed by Part VI of the Road Traffic Act 1988) by extending the scope of third party motor cover to embrace the use of automated  vehicles and deal with electric and hydrogen powered vehicle charging infrastructure.  It introduced the concept of no-fault product liability in a field of insurance that had previously depended on claimants establishing some driver or owner culpability since 1930

The Act was a flagship government initiative of Prime Minister Mrs Theresa May’s government.  Its principle sponsor was the ill-fated Transport Minister, Mr Chris Grayling MP.

In 2018 Dr Bevan’s two-part feature in the New Law Journal [Driverless vehicles: future perfect? (Pt 1) and Driverless vehicles: future perfect? (Pt 2)] provided the first critical analysis  of the new regime.  It exposed various shortcomings, the most serious of which was a major flaw that would allow motor insurers to easily evade their liability to compensate victims of a malfunctioning automated vehicle.

The government was quick to act to plug this egregious defect by Regulation 6 of The Motor Vehicles (Compulsory Insurance) (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2019.  Regulation 6 effectively prohibits insurers from relying on certain breaches of policy terms against a third party victim after the event giving rise to its liability has arisen.

Daring to differ

Dr Bevan is the partner responsible for business development at Broomhead & Saul.  In May 2020 he supervised the nation’s first video witnessed will on behalf of a self-isolating client who was secluded 150 miles away.  His 3 June 2020 paper ‘ Why Video Witnessing Is Valid, which the Attorney General described as ‘an argument with force, set out in impressively comprehensive terms ’ exposed the Law Commission’s erroneous research finding from 2017 to the effect that video witnessing was invalid, as seriously flawed and bad law.  This persuaded the government to pass emergency legislation to reform the Wills Act 1837 to permit this practice with retrospective effect (see: Section 2 of the Wills Act 1837 (Electronic Communications) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Order 2020).

Between 2005 and 2018 Dr Bevan’s published research and his legal activism and pro bono campaigning led to a number of a important reforms to the Motor Insurance Bureau’s compensatory regimes for victims of uninsured and untraced drivers.  Dr Bevan was featured as a ‘Mover and Shaker’ by the New Law Journal in December 2020.