The EU Motor Insurance Directive 2009/103/EC (“Insurance Directive”) is intended to help EU residents involved in a road accident in another EU country. Under the Directive, subscribers to compulsory motor insurance policies in all EU countries are covered for motoring throughout the EU. The directive obliges all motor vehicles in the EU to be covered by compulsory third party insurance (all passengers are covered, throughout the EU). It also introduces a mechanism to compensate local victims of accidents caused by vehicles from another EU country and requires the quick settlement of claims arising from accidents occurring outside the victim’s EU country of residence (so-called “visiting victims”).
One problem with the current situation is that victims of cross-border road traffic accidents (“accident-abroad victims”) often face difficulties with respect to the time-limits for claiming compensation. The applicable time-limits for bringing a claim are determined by the law of the Member State where the accident occurred, in accordance with the Union conflict of law rules. The national rules on time-limits are not only complex but also vary considerably throughout the EU. Accident-abroad victims will often not be familiar with the rules of the country they are travelling in. This creates obstacles for asserting claims for damages. European travellers who are a victim of a car accident in another EU country are likely to claim compensation for damages that they suffer in the accident.
Each EU country has different procedural rules for claiming compensation with widely varying national rules on time limits for making a claim which can range from 1 to 10 years. Visitors from other Member States are less likely to be familiar with these rules, creating problems for victims in accessing justice. In some cases, victims may even run the risk of receiving no compensation for harm suffered due to particularly short limitation or prescription periods applicable in the EU country where the accident occurred. Travellers may also lack knowledge regarding the commencement of or the possibilities of suspending these limitation and prescription periods.
The European Commission, recognising that divergent national legislation on limitation periods creates a potential risk of losing the right to claim compensation for the victims of cross-border road traffic accidents, has now launched a public consultation to help victims of cross-border traffic accidents, who may currently face difficulties because of varying time limits for claiming compensation for damage in case of an accident abroad in the EU (see Annex). The consultation will run until 19 November 2012. The European Commission aims to better understand the factual scale of the problems encountered and verify the real and practical impact that this legal issue has on victims, in an effort to design appropriate and proportionate measures that could remedy this situation.
Harris Kyriakides LLC shall take advantage of the invitation of the European Commission for public consultation and shall participate in the public consultation, by sending views from lawyers participating in the Insurance Department of the firm.