If someone trips and falls on an electric car’s charging cable lying on the sidewalk, who is responsible?
Many EV owners without off-street parking come up with their own ingenious tactics for running a charging cable from their home to the side of the road, sometimes with non-slip mats on the cord and even cases of people running a cable to from an upper window in their terraced property to a tree curb and down the trunk.
However, these tactics not only increase the risk of other people interfering with their vehicle’s charging, but also create a potential hazard for pedestrians who could trip and fall on cables in the roadway.
What the LGA says…
Although there is an obvious risk, the Local Government Association (LGA) has already told us that there is “no legislation that they know of” that would make the careless placement of a charging cable illegal.
When we looked at the legal ramifications of using charging cables on the pavement in 2020, an LGA spokesperson told This is Money that if someone were to hurt themselves by tripping over a charging cable on a sidewalk, the owner could potentially be liable – although a personal injury attorney and car insurer say that may not be the case.
A cable should only be placed on the curb when the vehicle is under load and should always be removed when not in use.
Although people living on particularly busy streets are suggested to use raised plastic cable protectors, which are commonly used on construction sites.
A protector, up to three meters long, usually costs around £20.
The LGA adds that drivers should check their local authority’s website when considering how best to charge their electric vehicle.
The guidance recommends that charging cables should only be across the curb when the vehicle is plugged in. Many recommend ‘cable protectors’ (as seen in this photo), which are commonly used on building sites and cost around £20.
A personal injury lawyer’s perspective…
This is Money spoke with Kathryn Hart, partner at personal injury law experts Lime Solicitors, to better understand what the process would be for someone who sustains an injury after tripping over a load leash on the sidewalk.
“Your accident probably happened on a public road, so you can’t claim that the negligent person is the occupant of that highway,” she explained.
“You will have to argue that in the case of common law negligence they owed you a duty of care, that they breached that duty and that it was reasonably foreseeable that the injury would occur and that you were injured. “
This makes the claim scenario the same as if a person had to prove that they had indeed been knocked down by the owner of the electric vehicle, with the claim then being made against their insurer.
“Will this insurance apply in this kind of case? What you have to prove is that the injury resulted from using the insured vehicle on the road,” says Kathryn.
“If the Court agrees that the vehicle charging uses it, insurers should cover it.”
However, she warns: “Insurers are generally not quick to accept liability if they think they can avoid it. I think they will fight it.
“The problem with a claim against the car owner is that if the insurance doesn’t cover them, they’re probably not worth suing.”
What car insurers think…
While personal injury lawyers are placing the ball firmly in these cases in an insurer’s court, This is Money spoke to one of the leading electric vehicle insurers, LV General Insurance, to get their perspective. .
Incredibly, EV policies must now cover customers in the event of a trip or fall on their own charging cables.
Recently the law changed following a court ruling where the “use” of a vehicle was defined.
Charging an electric vehicle is considered “use” or the use of the vehicle, just as you use a car if you fill it up with gas, even if you are not physically driving it.
But what if someone else trips over the charging cable?
A spokesperson for LV told us: “If someone were to trip or fall on a charging cable and our customer was found to be legally responsible or negligent, our policy would cover it under the heading of ‘liability to others’.
“With these types of claims, our client would have to be found negligent in court and there would also be other things to consider, like the pedestrian perhaps not paying attention to where they were walking because that, for example, he was looking at their phone – there could probably be an element of contributory negligence on their part.
While that may be the case, LV says he hasn’t received any such cases yet.
He also added that the injury would have to be “serious enough to warrant a claim”, and tripping on a sidewalk wouldn’t necessarily result in a life-threatening or life-altering injury in most cases.