Personal claims from traffic accidents – comparison of different European systems.
Much has been written about the types of personal claims from traffic accidents (but not only, as medical claims and the like will also come into consideration here). In view of the new challenges in the field of protection of persons on the road, the need to adapt insurance products to the dynamics of the market, it is worthwhile for the Polish industry to constantly monitor what other legal orders provide and how the issues of claims in this area are handled by European courts. Based on conversations with experienced industry professionals and Insuralex’s knowledge base, I decided to compare Polish solutions with proposals from three selected European countries – France, Austria and Spain.
In the Polish Civil Code, compensation for bodily injury or health disorder is regulated by Article 445. This is known as direct damage, which the injured party (such as in a traffic accident) is entitled to claim. As a rule, it is necessary to prove the damage, physical, mental, the course of treatment, the impact of the event on the injured party’s life – personal, professional, family, etc., in order to assert just this claim, and the burden of proof is on the plaintiff. The statute of limitations for these claims is: 3 years – if the perpetrator is not identified and no crime is committed, 10 years – if the perpetrator is identified and there is a conviction of the perpetrator in a criminal case, and 20 years – if the perpetrator is not identified but a crime is committed. In previous case law, such damages are compensated with amounts depending on the degree of damage. Amounts from PLN 1,000 to PLN 10,000 compensated for minor damages (defined for the purposes of this article as category 1), with brief conservative treatment, leaving no permanent consequences. More serious cases, with surgical treatment, health damages that affect daily functioning, etc. (category 2) are compensated with amounts between PLN 10,000 and PLN 100,000 and more, while damages resulting in a change in the existing life (category 3) – e.g., loss of limbs, vital organs, the need for a wheelchair – PLN 300,000 – PLN 500,000. In cases where the victim has lost the ability to live independently, the ability to move, or is in a vegetative state, the range of compensation awarded is from PLN 700,000 to PLN 1-2 million (category 4).
Let’s look at solutions in different countries.
A similar claim, also available directly to the injured party, operates in the French Civil Code. They are governed by Articles 1231-1 and 1240,1241, while these claims can also be derived from the 1985 law on traffic accident victims or on any other legal basis for personal injury. The issues of burden of proof and the evidence procedure itself are shaped similarly to those in Poland. The statute of limitations is 10 years, with no additional distinctions. French courts award amounts ranging from about €500 to €8,000 in category 1, and in category 2 – amounts from €8,000 to €70,000, in category 3 – from €300,000 to €700,000, while category 4 claims are already amounts of several million euros
In Spain, similar claims to those described above, with an identical set of injured parties and burden of proof, are also governed by the Civil Code (Article 1902). The statute of limitations, however, presents a less favourable picture for victims compared to Poland or France – in the absence of a crime, it is 1 year (3 years in Catalonia), and in the case of the commission of a traffic crime, the periods depend on the type of crime. As for the amount of compensation, daily rates apply, varying depending on the category, from about €32 to more than €120 per day. Category 4 claims are valued very individually by the courts, but usually do not reach such high sums as in France.
According to the Austrian Civil Code, the evidence procedure is not fundamentally different from the systems described above. The basic statute of limitations is 3 years from the time of learning of the damage, and 30 years from the appearance of the consequences of the damage if the victim of the accident or incident did not know about the damage or the person of the perpetrator. If the damage is from a validly adjudicated crime committed intentionally and punishable by imprisonment of not less than 1 year, the statute of limitations is 30 years. In Austria, there are no specific tariffs for this type of damage, and the amounts awarded are always evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Courts most often focus on the period of severe pain and suffering caused by the accident, as determined by an expert. The amounts awarded oscillate between: category 1 – €110-120, category 2 – €220-250, category 3 – €330-350 for each day of pain or suffering. For category 4, daily amounts can be as high as €2,000. The highest amounts awarded were €3,200 per day. Compensation is also provided for restoration and care costs, usually between €15 and €20 per day. Damages related to lost wages are fully compensated, as in many countries, but here (unlike in some systems) the courts additionally recognize claims for incapacity to perform domestic activities (between €12 and €18 per day).
In the next issue of “Gazeta Ubezpieczeniowa” we will look at a comparison of European solutions in the field of compensation for infringement of personal rights.
|Legal regulations||Civil Code||Civil Code||Civil Code||Civil Code|
|Burden of proof||on the plaintiff||on the plaintiff||on the plaintiff||on the plaintiff|
|Amounts awarded||Category 1 PLN 1,000 – PLN 10,000, category 2 PLN 10,000 – PLN 1,000,000 PLN, category 3 PLN 300,000 PLN to PLN 500,000 category 4 PLN 700,000 PLN to PLN 1-2 million||from €32 to more than €120 per day, In category 4 they are valued by the courts individually||Category 1 €500 to €8000, category 2 – from €8,000 to €70,000 category 3 – €300,000 to €700,000, category 4 several million euros.||Category 1 €110 to €120, category 2 €220-250, category 3 – €330-350 per day 4 up to €2000 / day|
|Statute of limitations||3 years, 10 years – 20 years||10 years||10 years||3 years, 30 years|
|Other||Compensation for the cost of restoring health to its previous condition is also provided. Damages related to lost wages are compensated, in addition, courts recognize claims for inability to perform domestic activities|
In view of the new challenges in the field of protection of persons on the road, the need to adapt insurance products to the dynamics of the market, it is worthwhile for the Polish industry to constantly monitor what other legal orders provide and how the issues of claims in this area are handled by European courts.