As we near the end of the transition period for exiting the European Union on 31st December 2020, there still remains a great deal of uncertainty regarding the UK’s future working and trading relationship with the EU-27. All that can be said with some degree of certainty is that there will be no extension to the transition period so the UK will be leaving the EU with or without a comprehensive trade deal.
This poses a number of issues for those involved in advising the victims of accidents abroad. It is likely that any accident that occurs before the end of the transition period will be allowed to continue on the basis of the claims processes and legislation that is already in force. It is more uncertain what will happen for anybody injured in the EU after the 31st December 2020.
Currently, if you are involved in a road traffic accident abroad then a claim can be brought via the foreign insurers agent in the UK or via the Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB) who will deal with their counterpart in the EU. This means that the claim can be pursued in the UK Courts but the applicable law will be that of the country where the accident happened.
Advice given by motoring organisations at present is that if you are travelling in the EU after the end of the transition period you should notify your insurers and obtain a Green Card which provides proof of insurance and if erring on the side of caution, obtain an international travel permit which can be obtained from a Post Office.
If you are involved in an accident which involves an uninsured or untraced driver whilst in the EU the claim is currently pursued with the assistance of the MIB. The MIB is currently trying to negotiate reciprocal agreements with counterpart organisations in EU states so that this procedure can continue.
Many UK citizens work abroad either on regular contracts or from time to time. A significant amount of the UK health and safety legislations is based upon legislation introduced by the EU. It is not clear at this stage if the Government will simply adopt all the existing legislation or will use this as an opportunity to amend UK health and safety legislation. Many workers representatives are pressuring the Government to ensure that there is no reduction in the safeguards afforded to employees. However, in the future it is far less certain that the UK Government would introduce legislation which mirrored any new health and safety legislation introduced by the EU-27.
At present, if you are injured abroad, as with motor claims, the proceedings can be commenced in the UK Courts and dealt with according to the health and safety and legislation of the country in which the accident happened. Given the standardisation of legislation throughout the EU such legislation does not differ significantly. Any Judgment in a UK Court can then be transferred to a member state Court for enforcement. It is not known whether this will continue after the 31st December 2020 and if it does not, then it is likely that any proceedings for personal injury would need to be pursued in the country where the accident happened. Clearly, this will present significant obstacles for those that have been injured abroad who would need to retain the services of local lawyers even if they had returned to the UK.
As with many aspects with he withdrawal negotiations, there is no clear guidance at this stage as to what the future landscape for personal injury claims will be post-Brexit. All we can do is wait and see as, hopefully, more detail emerges as the negotiations near completion at the end of the transition period.