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How European Law Differs for Compensation Claims

A week after starting my new seat in Personal Injury and I found myself assisting and attending an Accidents Abroad Seminar.  Having not had any experience in Personal Injury and looking at the list of Delegates who would be attending, I expected the seminars to be fast paced and presume a background in this area of law.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that I not only followed the seminar and kept up with the debates and intricacies discussed by the experts, but I enjoyed the lively debate towards the end of the day in how the law would be applicable to specific scenarios.

The day commenced with an introduction by Neil Lorimer a partner of our firm, a discussion in respect of jurisdictional issues by Lucy Wyles, a barrister at 2 Temple Gardens and the application of foreign law in accident abroad claims by Bernard Doherty, a barrister at Thirty Nine Essex Street.  We also heard from Antoinette Collignon and Jon Sutton, partners at Legaltree and De Cotta Law respectively who were able to share some of the differences in both the law and the practicalities of the legal system in the Netherlands and Spain.   It became clear that whilst trained in Personal Injury law in England and Wales, even when merely eliciting a response from either the courts or a foreign insurer, the most experienced Personal Injury lawyer would most likely need the assistance of someone practicing in the particular country in question.  We were informed that Spain had a limitation date of one year from the date of stability but that if there were criminal proceedings, the Judge may make an order to compensate for the civil matter at the same time and therefore steps should be taken to pre-empt any such order.  We found that in the Netherlands, even if the actions of a pedestrian caused a road traffic accident, they would automatically be entitled to at least 50% of the potential compensation of that claim.  These are points I had not even considered would differ between European countries.

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The seminar then went on to consider how periodical payments, whilst complicated enough when considered in UK settlement proceedings, became vastly more complex when they may be paid from a foreign insurance company, which was discussed by Paul Rosson from Frenkel Topping.  Given Louise Howard’s insightful blog into the topics discussed by each speaker, I do not propose to repeat the content of each discussion here, but please do refer to her previous blog on this matter for further information.

Whilst these discussions were vastly interesting and informative, by far the most thought provoking questions of the day came when discussing our fictional case study concerning Mr and Mrs Smith, our English drivers, Mrs and Mr Bergkamp, our Dutch drivers and Mr Spielberg, the Californian driver all involved in a road traffic accident in Spain.  The potential legal redress for each of the parties sparked a lively debate applying the knowledge we had been given throughout the day.  Subjects were debated such as where best to bring a Personal Injury claim and it became clear that this was dependant on which fictional character was your client.  Bernard Doherty led this spirited discussion highlighting jurisdictional issues, manipulating the situation to ensure we could all apply the law dependant on the circumstances which we had in front of us.  This forced all attendees from the most accomplished to complete novices like me, to think how to apply different aspects of the scenario given to the jurisdictional issues and legal requirements.  I now look forward to using my newfound knowledge in my Personal Injury seat and am eager to attend any further seminars conducted by Lanyon Bowdler.