About 130 million Europeans have planned a holiday in another European Union country this year. About three-quarters of them will use a car or motorbike at least once to reach their destination. Inevitably, some holidaymakers will get caught up in road traffic accidents, either on the way or during their break. But how can they claim compensation if they are a victim of an accident in a country other than their own? Where can they file their claim? And what is the deadline for a compensation claim?
The European Commission launched on July 19 2012 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.
Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU’s Justice Commissioner said: “There are around 1 million road traffic accidents in the EU every year and some of these inevitably involve visitors from other EU countries. A road accident is a stressful experience for anyone, but it can get even worse if the victim is denied compensation due to complicated rules on bringing a claim. The European Commission wants to find out more so that we can offer effective solutions and make sure all victims have proper access to justice. European Citizens should feel at ease when using their car to go on holiday in another EU country.“
Today, different national rules lead to a confusing situation for victims, who may miss the sometimes short deadlines and end up receiving no compensation at all. The aim of the consultation is to get a better idea of the scale of the problem and to assess potential solutions. The initiative overlaps with the Commission’s broader efforts to help victims of crime in the EU and follows recent endorsements by the European Parliament and the Council of the Commission’s proposal on minimum rights for crime victims.
Possible solutions that are addressed in the public consultation range from improving information to victims of cross-border road accidents, to harmonising limitation and prescription periods (the time limits for bringing legal action for damages following an accident). The consultation is aimed at road traffic accident victims, all those who travel abroad with their car, legal practitioners, insurers and any other interested individual or organisation.