Accidents Abroad*

Claiming for injury in another jurisdiction

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Accidents Abroad* 2016-10-19T18:43:29+00:00

Recent European legislation permits Irish-resident victims of road traffic accidents to sue in Ireland, even if the accident took place and person responsible lives in another member state of the European Union.

This is in addition to the normal jurisdiction the Irish courts have over accidents that took place in Ireland, or accidents abroad where the person responsible (the defendant) is an Irish resident.

Roddy TyrrellTo enquire about claiming for accidents abroad or in Ireland (irrespective of your current residence), contact Roddy Tyrrell, publisher of Lawyer.ie & Principal of Tyrrell Solicitors.

To arrange a consultation by phone or in person, contact him using the enquiry form or call (01)6671476.
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Recent Case Law

In the case of C-463/06 FBTO Schadeverzeheringen NV v Jack Obenbreit the European Court of Justice had to decide this issue on a reference from the German Federal Court of Justice.

Mr. Obenbreit was resident in Germany, but was injured in an accident in the Netherlands with a Dutch resident driver. He sued in Germany on the basis that an injured party under European Law (the Motor Insurance Directives 209/103/EC) had a right to sue an insurance company directly when injured by an insured motorist.

The European regulation which determines which state can hear a claim (Regulation 44/2001) provides that a claimant can sue in the state where he is resident, if he is the insured or a “beneficiary” under an insurance policy (Article 9(1)b). Article 11(2) of that regulation states that where the law provides that a person can bring a case directly against an insurance company they are considered the “beneficiary”.

The question for the German courts was whether this provision was applicable when the German legal system classified a direct right of action against an insurance company as a “tort” or civil wrong rather than a contractual right.

The European Court of Justice held that regardless of how the German legal system classified the right to bring a claim directly against an insurance company, the European regulation permitted the claim to be brought in the state where the claimant lived. The regulation is designed to protect the weaker party and must be read in that context.

Another European regulation (Article 4 of 864/2007) provides that it is the law of the place where the wrong takes place that determines the claim but it is the procedural rules of the court hearing the claim that governs procedure.

This means that Irish courts hearing claims regarding road traffic accidents in another member state of the European union must apply the law of that state, which means the time limit for bringing the claim may be longer than provided for in Irish law (currently 2 years).

EU Road Traffic Accidents in Irish Courts

Irish procedural rules, including the requirement to seek an authorisation from the Injuries Board however apply although given the Injuries Board’s lack of knowledge of foreign legal systems it normally issues authorisations without assessment.

The Irish High Court recently in Kelly v Groupama

[2012] IEHC 177 decided a case involving a foreign road traffic accident. Mr. Kelly was injured on holiday in France by a vehicle owned by the Cannes municipal council. He sued in Ireland and the Irish courts had to apply French law to the assessment of the claim. Mr. Justice Peart heard evidence of French law and used the rules of the French legal system to decide the claim and assess compensation.

It should be noted that this provision applies if a claimant is Irish resident regardless of nationality.

So if you have been injured by a road traffic accident anywhere in the European Union that was the fault of another person, and you are resident in Ireland, you should consult your solicitor. It may be possible to sue without leaving your own country.

Written by Dermot Sheehan BL