On the 31st December 2020 the UK left the EU and the transition period came to an end. A trade deal was negotiated but no deal has yet been made to clarify how any UK residents injured in the EU can proceed with a claim.
Prior to the UK leaving the EU, if you were injured whilst in the EU, whether as a result of a motoring accident, injury at work or whilst on holiday you were able to pursue your claim through the courts in England and Wales and enforce any judgement directly in the EU member state. If a claim has been issued in this country on or before 31st December 2020 then the claim continues as before in the UK courts. If the claim will be issued after that date other factors need to be taken into consideration and it is less clear which country’s legal process should be followed.
It is possible that a new focus on jurisdiction will mean that you have to bring a claim in the country in which you were injured, rather than in England and Wales. An injured person who is considering a claim arising from an accident in the EU should seek legal advice at an early stage so that they can be advised upon issues such as jurisdiction, funding, use of foreign legal representatives and how any judgement that is obtained will be enforced. Thought also needs to be given as to the time limits for issuing court proceedings. Limitation periods may well vary from country to country. For example in France you have 10 years to file a court case, whereas in the UK it is 3 years.
Motoring organisations advise that a green card is obtained from your motor insurers before travelling abroad as you need evidence that you have valid insurance in place. In addition you should notify your insurers and display a GB sticker on your car.
Ensuring that you have suitable travel insurance when travelling abroad is now more important than ever. The European Health Insurance Card has been replaced by the UK Global Health Insurance Card. This provides the same level of basic health care coverage as the EHIC card but does not cover private treatment. It should not be regarded as a substitute for travel insurance.
If you are injured while working in an EU state then most of the issues that currently apply to UK claims will also apply to a claim in an EU member state because most EU health and safety regulations have been implemented into UK law. At present there is no divergence between these two sets of regulations but it cannot be assumed that this will continue to be the case. One of the main sticking points in the Brexit negotiations was the right of the UK to implement its own regulations in various fields and if, when and how this divergence can occur.
In April 2020 the UK applied to become a member of the Lugano Convention. This application is still pending and requires the consent of all existing members of the Convention. Membership of the Lugano Convention will simplify litigation and the enforcement of judgements in the countries that are signatories and should provide the UK with broadly the same legal protection that membership of the EU provided. Until membership is granted to the UK there will be a period of uncertainty for UK citizens injured abroad.
As with many aspects with the Brexit deal, it is still early days and there is little clear guidance to know with any clarity what the future landscape for personal injury claims involving EU members or in EU states will look like and whether the new framework will be drawn up by swift legislation or evolve more slowly via judicial decisions.