If you are able to drive your vehicle yourself, you can also drive injured – says the road traffic regulations. But am I insured? FOCUS Online expert Christian Hansen explains the legal situation.

Freshly operated, the patient is discharged from the hospital or a day clinic on the way to recovery. But one visible sign of injury remains: the arm is in a cast, in a sling; or a foot has a cast. In short: A limb that you need for full mobility is not available or only available to a very limited extent. This begs the question: what can I do with it?

The doctor first answers the question of how I can use my limbs after an injury. He says how I can strain and how much. But what about the traffic? Am I allowed to drive? The nagging question of whether I can get behind the wheel is crucial for many who depend on their vehicle for work.

The road traffic regulations are clear on this: As a participant in road traffic, especially as a driver of vehicles, I am generally allowed to drive with a cast or a bandage that restricts my movement. The Road Traffic Act leaves it up to the driver to decide whether they feel “that a driver must be able to drive the car independently at all times”. But does that mean that, for example, with an impairment in the right leg (for example due to cast or a rigid bandage) driving a car is not possible? With a cast on the left lower leg, driving a vehicle is theoretically quite conceivable. Even with an arm in a cast or in a sling, it seems fundamentally possible to drive a car – especially with automatic shifting.

Christian Hansen is a lawyer at the Munich law firm Steinpichler and deals with commercial law, in particular corporate and asset succession as well as investment and financing structures.

But what if something happens? Or if, as a driver with such a temporary handicap, you get caught up in a traffic check?

Basically, in this case, the question is always asked whether the driver can master the task assigned to him at the moment, namely driving a vehicle, even with the restriction. The decisive factor here is that the driver must have both hands free for this task. If a part of the driver’s body is not functional (e.g. because of a bandage or a plaster cast), then the courts will decide after a police check or an accident.

If an arm or a leg is actually so restricted in its mobility that it cannot be used at all, then this is at least an administrative offence. However, it can also be the case, especially if road traffic is endangered, that this becomes a criminal offense (Section 315 c of the Criminal Code). It is also possible that you are liable to prosecution here. It is not foreseeable how a court will decide in the event of an accident that has actually occurred (!), perhaps even with personal injury or injury or worse. That can only ever be a case-by-case decision, but consider how high the personal fault is when a person is injured on the road and this is ultimately only because the reaction to the physical limitation was not fast enough.

The attitude of the insurance companies is much simpler. Once a body part required to drive the vehicle is in a cast or bandage with which one can no longer move as if it were not there, one is restricted. This restriction is so significant for the insurance companies that participation in road traffic without danger can no longer be guaranteed. If a traffic accident happens, this as a guideline, the driver with a handicap is always partly to blame.

The partial liability applies in any case to the claim of your own comprehensive insurance, i.e. if the insurance is to replace the damage caused by the vehicle owner to his own vehicle. With reference to complicity in the accident, the insurance company simply won’t pay.

But even if you are involved in an accident through no fault of your own, for example in a rear-end collision, the opposing insurance company will always try to claim partial responsibility from the driver with a handicap and the service, especially compensation for the damage to your own vehicle, even not to pay or at least to cut.

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In both cases, this leads to unpleasant consequences. In the case of non-paying comprehensive insurance, you have to pay for the damage yourself, i.e. have your car repaired at your own expense. Especially with regard to leasing contracts, one must carefully consider whether this does not even represent a significant violation of a cardinal obligation of the leasing contract. After all, you then drive almost without comprehensive insurance. Of course, this can also have sensitive financial consequences if the damage to the vehicle is major and the insurance company does not pay.

If you have actually caused an accident, the liability insurance always pays for the damage caused by the opponent. So you don’t have to worry about replacing the opponent’s damage at first. But, and this is where gross negligence comes into play again, your insurance company can contact you and, under certain circumstances, even demand the full amount of the damage that the insurance company had to charge the opponent. This so-called recourse is possible in the event of gross negligence in causing the damage. So if you have an accident with your arm in a cast, then, from a purely financial point of view, in relation to the insurance company, you are in the same position as someone who causes an accident while completely drunk with 2.5 per mille blood alcohol.

So if you don’t want to make a mistake: keep your hands off the steering wheel!

Supplement: There are of course vehicles that have special conversions for drivers with physical disabilities. Everyone has to decide for themselves whether it’s worth it.