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mower damage in a public place

Whilst cutting the grass verge outside my house, am I responsible if a stone is thrown up and damages a person or car?

Firstly let me congratulate this listener for having the energy to cut the grass outside and not wait for the Council to come along.  I am of course assuming that the grass verge is owned by the Council and with cut-backs they are unlikely to be giving this type of public amenity first priority. 

 

Before I answer the question specifically, I have to advise that if the lawnmower is self-propelled then this listener is in breach of the Road Traffic Act 1961.  Any mechanically propelled vehicle (including, as this one is, a pedestrian controlled vehicle) has to be registered, taxed and insured and the operator has to have a licence as a driver/operator of a pedestrian controlled vehicle.  An example of pedestrian controlled vehicles can be seen on the streets of most cities – hand-steered street sweepers which I think are called Green Machines.

 

If the machine is not mechanically propelled but is petrol driven then no such licences are required. 

 

Regarding this listener’s fear of an accident I think he or she is probably liable because the law of negligence asks the question “Is an accident reasonably foreseeable?”  I think the answer to that, from my own experience, is yes because when most people mow a lawn that is anything other than a billiard table stones, pebbles and bits of dirt get thrown up every now and then and whilst a freak accident might occur if you hit somebody with that stone, it is still reasonably foreseeable.  And such accidents can be very serious, you could hit a car which would go out of control and crash into several other cars or you could hit somebody in the head and kill them or seriously injure them.  There may also be criminal liability under health and safety legislation.

 

Depending on this listener’s household policy, the chances are that such an accident would not be covered.  You should read your house policy but my experience is, particularly with a self propelled lawn mower, policies usually specifically exclude any cover involving the use of a mechanically propelled vehicle and that would, as mentioned above, include a self propelled lawn mower.

 

I would give this listener a bit of practical advice.  Use an old fashioned non-powered push mower.

The issues raised in the answer to this NewsTalk listener's question are dealt with in a general way as can only be the case on live radio. Before relying on the advice given in this answer, whether you heard the broadcast or are for the first time reading the issues here please do not rely on the broad advice given. For a detailed professional opinion please consult a qualified legal advisor and for further details read our disclaimer on the Home Page.

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