An update on Brexit and Accidents Abroad
Following the UK’s recent exit from the European Union, James Braund, specialist Personal Injury Senior Associate, considers where this leaves UK nationals if they have been injured in accidents in other EU countries.
Last year, amongst the dark uncertainty of Brexit negotiations, my colleague, Kelvin Farmaner, considered what the UK’s potential exit from the European Union could look like for victims of injuries in another EU country here.
At that time, a negotiated exit from the European Union looked unlikely, amid stalemate in Parliament, with the prospect of a “hard Brexit” with no deal a distinct possibility.
At 11:00pm on Friday 31 January 2020, the UK left the European Union, via the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2018. Under the negotiated deal, the UK now enters a transition period which will end on 31 December 2020. During this time, the UK will continue to abide by EU legislation, whilst negotiations take place as both bodies attempt to try and work out appropriate treaties and deals between them to take matters forward under a new system.
The Law Society has confirmed that, during this transition period, the Brussels (Recast) Regulation (which allows the UK Courts jurisdiction for, amongst other things, personal injury claims against insurers where there is a direct right of action against an insurer, if the accident occurred in another EU country but the Claimant is domiciled in the UK) will continue to apply to any proceedings commenced before the end of the transition period.
Future legislation remains uncertain
It is understood that negotiations have already commenced between the UK and the European Union regarding a replacement for the Brussels (Recast) Regulation, Rome II Regulation (which covers the applicable law to such claims) and the Fourth Motor Directive (which specifically covers Road Traffic Accidents). However, whether a deal on similar terms may be achievable is by no means clear and there seems little progress at present.
As such, at present it remains possible, under certain circumstances, for someone living in the UK to pursue a personal injury claim in the UK Courts, even if the accident occurred in another EU country (if there is a direct right of action against the insurance company under that country’s law). However, the current slow progress to negotiations, highlights that such jurisdiction (and the terms under which it can be claimed) is by no means certain to continue after the end of the transition period and it is important that victims in such claims seek specialist legal advice at the earliest possible opportunity to ensure that such proceedings are formally commenced well before the end of the transition period.