Accident claim victim successfully recovers compensation in English courts after road traffic accident in France

By Stephen Higham, personal injury solicitor

A recent case heard in the Queens Bench Division of the High Court has clarified how people should be compensated after accidents abroad.

Tim Knight, an Englishman, was knocked down in a road traffic accident with a French car while on holiday there. The car was registered and insured by a French insurance company, and the contract of insurance was governed by French law.

Mr. Knight’s solicitors issued proceedings in the English courts, as their client was resident here. The accident circumstances were straightforward, so the insurers for the French driver admitted liability. All that was left to resolve was how much accident compensation Mr. Knight was entitled to, and payment of his legal costs.

This became a complicated matter because English and French laws are very different. Mr. Knight wanted to be compensated under English law; the insurers wanted French rules to apply.

Experts were called to explain the differences between the two legal systems and their effects on any accident compensation award.

Judge Sharp (who decided the case) concluded that, because the real issue related to valuing Mr. Knight’s accident compensation claim, this was a tort of negligence and not a contract matter. As a consequence, the assessment of damages could be dealt with by the English legal system, which would apply French law where applicable. As a result, Mr. Knight was entitled to be compensated in the English courts.