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Accidents abroad and UK claims for non-British nationals

17th December 2015

At George Ide we know that not all accidents happen at home.

English courts are able to deal with claims arising from accidents elsewhere in the EU, providing the claimant has been ‘habitually resident’ within England and Wales. Our courts can apply the laws of Germany or Poland, for example, to determine a foreign insurer’s liability to pay compensation in England. For instance, someone from the Chichester area who sustains serious injury at a Belgian factory, caused by an unsafe system of work, should be able to pursue their claim in our High Court.

‘Rome II’ is the EU convention which governs the law to be applied when someone is injured in an accident elsewhere in the EU. It is a little known fact that our judges are regularly called upon to apply, for instance, Polish law, to award compensation to a UK resident injured by the negligence of 1 or more Polish drivers in Poland. This includes direct claims against the foreign motor insurance companies themselves. Foreign law experts keep our courts up to date with decisions of the Polish Supreme Court and others within the EU.

Our courts can also deal with cases arising from an accident abroad caused by the fault of a British employer, individual, organisation or business. Often, under these circumstances, a claim can be brought here in the UK under the jurisdiction of English law. British car or coach passengers seriously injured whilst travelling in Spain, for example, may be entitled to make a claim in the UK – under English law – if the accident was caused by a British driver. Similarly, a soldier on a tour of duty in Cyprus, say, who is injured in an accident caused by the negligence of a British Army driver, would normally be able to sue the Ministry of Defence in an English court.

It is really important, in our experience, to work closely with barristers who have particular expertise in foreign law and cross-border claims and to have first-class access to expert lawyers throughout Europe and beyond. Such individuals or firms can be called upon for advice on various points of law, liability and compensation.

Complex international legal claims can contain pitfalls and hold unpleasant surprises for the unwary, so it is vital when considering this type of claim to consult a lawyer with sufficient specialist knowledge and experience; someone who can offer considered, careful and comprehensive advice.

Paul Fretwell. Partner, personal injury department

General, George Ide, News, Personal Injury Blog
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