Deal or No Deal? Brexit and Accidents Abroad

06 Feb 2019

How could Brexit affect how UK citizens handle accidents and injuries abroad? Experienced insurance solicitor, Kelvin Farmaner, explores the possibilities.

This article was published in PI brief update law journal February 2019.

It has been difficult to avoid the daily newsfeed updating us on the progress (or lack of progress) with Brexit negotiations. What is less well publicised however is the fact that the question of whether the government manages to negotiate a deal with the EU prior to 29 March will impact upon how cross border motor accident claims are dealt with after that date.

Currently a system known as the Green Card Scheme allows vehicles to move freely across the borders of all 48 subscribing countries and ensures that when a visiting vehicle causes damage, there is easy access to compensation in the victim’s home country. This system is not European-born and it should be achievable to preserve it post-Brexit.

The scheme outlined above enables cross border travel while protecting victims injured in their own country by a foreign registered vehicle. However there is another system, known as the Fourth Directive, to assist victims who are injured while abroad. This scheme is European-born and is more likely to face disruption depending on the progress of Brexit negotiations. The Fourth Directive enables victims to return home and then pursue a claim in their home country either via a local representative of the foreign insurer, or a special body known as the compensation body. Specialist claims handing companies such as Van Ameyde exist to deal with these cases. If the scheme is not maintained post-Brexit, then victims will have no choice but to pursue their claims in a foreign country, in an unfamiliar language.

The UK may well decide to keep its laws in line with the EU Motor Insurance Directives. However, if the Fourth Directive scheme is to be maintained in the UK it will require the agreement of all the other Member States. This is because, unlike the Green Card Scheme, it is based on reciprocal agreements and provisions in national laws.

Insurance companies, specialist claims handling organisations and insurance lawyers alike are keeping a close eye on Brexit developments. The outcome could impact on the way in which these specialist claims are dealt with in a variety of ways. This brief article is intended to serve as merely a reminder of the breadth of issues that may be impacted by Brexit and which were not necessarily contemplated by anyone at the time of the referendum.

Kelvin Farmaner and the team of experience solicitors at Trethowans have many years of experience in dealing with foreign accident claims. They are active members of the Forum of Insurance Lawyers (FOIL) and Kelvin sits on FOIL’s “European Issues” Sector Focus Team. Don’t hesitate to contact Kelvin today on 07500 935553.