Thursday, 29 January 2015
Stewarts Law: specialists in international accident claims involving spinal cord injuries
Our team specialises in international accidents and can advise on the best route for bringing a claim, as they did in the following cases of Mr Wall and two clients attacked on a safari.
Our client sustained spinal cord and multiple orthopaedic injuries in a motorbike accident in France but there was a thorny issue relating to what applicable law should be followed.
Mr Wall wanted to rely on expert evidence from a wide range of expert witnesses, as is common-place in an English case, where catastrophic injuries have been sustained. However, under European law, there was an unresolved issue as to whether the English court should strive to reach the same result as a French court would.
The defendant French insurer argued that Mr Wall should be restricted to the expert evidence which would usually be placed before a French Court (usually just a single agreed, or court appointed, expert who then incorporates into their report any necessary expertise from other experts) so that the English court would be informed by French practice in the assessment of damages.
The Court of Appeal gave a landmark judgment in what is thought to be the first decision in Europe on Article 15 and Recital 33 of Rome II. This established that claimants can use a full range of expert evidence to demonstrate the life-long consequences of their injuries in English courts. This means that they are likely to recover fuller compensation than if the claim had been brought in the country in which the accident occurred.
The decision confirmed that English victims of motor accidents in Europe not only have the right to bring their claim in their home country, but that those claims will be subject to the English rules of evidence and procedure. English rules permit seriously injured claimants to advance much more detailed evidence than is allowed in most other European jurisdictions, affording them the opportunity to establish the full extent of their life-time losses and potentially recover fuller compensation than if the claim had been brought in the country in which the accident occurred.
We similarly overcame the difficulty in establishing jurisdiction in English courts when we acted for Canadian claimants attacked by an elephant during a walking safari in Zambia. They had initially tried to resolve their claim directly with the Zambian Safari Lodge in South Africa but became frustrated by the slow progress and instructed us.
The companies who ran and owned the safari lodge are based in Zambia and BVI. We successfully identified a route to English jurisdiction through the English residency of the chief guide of the lodge. The companies who owned the safari lodge challenged the jurisdiction of the English courts but agreed to pay compensation to our clients at a settlement meeting in October 2014.
The clients wished to avoid the inconvenience of issuing the claim in Zambia or South Africa and had the claim been issued in these jurisdictions, they would likely have recovered a fraction of the final settlement. We were able to resolve the complex international dimension of the dispute within a year.
More information about Julian Chamberlayne, Partner in our Travel Department at Stewarts Law who specialises in overseas personal injury litigation can be found here.
Read more about our work with SIA here.