If you are travelling around the EU and EEA (European Union and European Economic Area) prior to October 31st 2019, (the date the UK is expected to leave the European Union) and are involved in a road traffic accident, you would be entitled under the EU law ‘fourth motor insurance directive’ to return home to the UK and pursue a legal claim.
The directive allows any person involved in an accident in another country part of the EU or EEA to return to their own country and pursue the responsible party through their own courts. Although any claim would have to be filed with the UK courts prior to October 31st 2019, otherwise the claim would have to be pursued in the country it occurred.
What happens after October 31st 2019?
After October 31st 2019 it is expected that residents of the UK will have their rights under EU law withdrawn. If you will be travelling in the EU or EEA after 31st October 2019, and the UK leaves without a deal, you will likely need to obtain a green card to confirm you have insurance as per the guidance detailed here.
If you are involved in a road traffic accident within the EU or EEA, then you would need to pursue a legal claim in the country the accident happened. This would mean either attempting to understand a foreign legal system yourself or instructing a solicitor in that country to act on your behalf. This raises several concerns such as lengthy delays, possible language barriers as well as different legal principles to the UK, such as time limits to bring the claim. This would possibly result in an expensive and lengthy process, which may discourage UK residents from making a claim.
If a claim was pursued, it could be complicated further if the responsible party is found not to be insured. In the UK the Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB) compensate victims of road traffic accidents were the responsible party is uninsured. Other member states have similar organisations, however they may have certain rules, for example they might only pay compensation to victims who are a resident of their country.
The MIB are currently attempting to agree with numerous countries within the EU and EEA to protect the rights of UK citizens following Brexit, however the amount of compensation awarded is likely to vary by each country.
For further information and to see which countries have signed up to the agreement, please visit the MIB website.
If you have been involved in an accident abroad our personal injury solicitors can help. Call us on 0175 321 6399.
By Toni Lowery, graduate paralegal in the personal injury team