A new legal precedent has been set this week, after a Porsche 911 driver was left with a bill after crashing on the oil of an Alfa Romeo driving ahead of him. The Oberlandesgericht of Koblenz ruled on the Porsche driver’s appeal on Tueday; It said that the 911 driver indisputably took a risk just by taking part in “touristenfahrten” on the Nürburgring Nordschleife in 2018. The number they assigned to that ‘fault’ was 25%:
A “tourist trip at high speed on a motor sport racetrack is so accident prone that liability for operational risk remains even in the event of an accident caused by third parties,” said the second court. The operational risk should actually be set at 25 percent of the costs.
The general details of the case are familiar to most regular visitors, and it’s a story repeated almost weekly at the Nordschleife. The Porsche driver crested a hill at between 170 and 190kmh, hit the oil of the classic Alfa, and lost control before hitting the barrier. The bill for this €65,000 accident was the subject of an insurance claim back in 2019, but after the Porsche driver wasn’t awarded the full costs of the accident, an appeal process was launched. The final ruling, issued this week, sets an important precedent that will be used for years to come.
My own experience of visiting Koblenz court is, to be honest, brutally similar. Both times I’ve been involved in classic “not my fault” accidents, the Judges decided that the speed of the victim was a factor, regardless of oil or people ahead doing dumb things. As the speed was over 130kmh when the situation unfolded, the ‘victim’ would carry a percentage of the fault.
But the decision details above is even more worrying than this cautionary “130kmh speed limit” that many TF regulars were already aware of.
Contactless Touristenfahrten has seen some of its busiest weekends during the Pandemic, and the demographic of the average Nordschleife driver has changed considerably. More and more local Germans made the trip to the Northloop, as TF was one of the few hobbies that could be practised during lockdown. But fewer foreigners made the trip.
The idea of the Nordschleife as a public road is enshrined within German psyche, and the decision above will doubtless raise eyebrows around the country. But I don’t believe that the Nordschleife’s “public road” status stands up to proper scrutiny in this day and age. I would suggest that the Nürburgring Nordschleife is similar to a busy supermarket car park, and I’m not just talking about your chances of getting a bump or a scrape. As a privately-owned and operated stretch of road, the circuit operators post signs demanding that all cars are subject to the laws of the public road. The track is therefore ‘adopted’ as subject to STVO, but it’s also far from a public right-of-way.
The status of Touristenfahrten in Germany is already shaky, with many insurance companies already pulling the “fully comprehensive” cover for their customers, regardless of which circuit they’re driving on. I know a few people with very (€xxx,xxx) expensive cars who only drive them on TF precisely because they feel their car is safely insured. This latest decision will only make TF a tougher decision to make for local drivers…
Source: DPA press release.