I was involved in a serious motorcycle accident in France nearly three years ago. My solicitors were appointed by my insurers.
I sustained a heavy crash and was in a coma and an induced coma for a total of 10 days. My family say I have had personality changes, and my physical injuries mean I cannot return to my old job as a television and satellite installation engineer. I know I have only got three years to bring a claim and I have seen no forward progress.
My fiancée is becoming really worried and I have had no income for nearly three years. I understand from the police report that the driver failed to give way at a roundabout and he was over the French drink-drive limit. I am now really beginning to panic. Should I be worried?
Yes. Trust your instincts. Your claim has I meandered without any direction and it appears that the “senior paralegal” dealing with your case has no formal legal qualifications. It also appears that minimal contact has been made with the UK agents of the French driver’s insurers.
The law is straightforward enough, if you know it. If you don’t it is a minefield.
The process should start with the UK agents of the French driver being approached. The one thing your current people did was find out the insurers of the French driver. English procedural law says that an admission of liability needs to be given within three months and 21 days of the letter of claim. However, traditionally the time is extended for foreign claims. For an injury like yours, you would need quite a lot of time for a neurologist to ascertain whether you have sustained an organic brain injury. I would be surprised if you had not.
The law is simple to state, but quite difficult in practice. Your injuries would be measured on a French tariff system called the bareme and in France a court-appointed medical expert would make the assessment of your injuries. In English law we would use an expert nominated to the UK agents of the French insurer. Your medical experts (in your case they would be experts in neurology, neuropsychology and upper limb injuries) would write an English report but based on French assessment. Your claim can be dealt with in England, but your claim and blame for the accident would be decided in French law. French limitation, rather than UK limitation, applies and it is 10 years in France but the pitiful progress made in your case means that the French insurers will simply wait this case out in the expectation that your current solicitors will mess the claim up.
In a recent takeover case, my French opponent said to me: “If clients pick stupid lawyers, then they live with the consequences.” He also told me something professional insiders have known for years. The insurers all know who the competent lawyers are and those cases are taken seriously. They also know who the clowns are. Your advisers fit firmly into the clown class.
The method of working out past and future losses in France and England is very similar, except that in French law there is no presumption that you should retrain for another job. However, that is quite a risky proposition because, eventually, your case will be heard by an English judge and English judges like people who try to make the best of a bad situation.
Yours is a £750,000 case that must be in the hands of an expert lawyer who is familiar with the fundamental concepts of European Treaty law and French methods of calculating losses. Regrettably, you don’t even have a lawyer. You need a real lawyer with experience in French and European personal injury law. Change your claims clown now, before things get any worse.
Don’t rely on the advice from your insurance appointed solicitor, get proper independent advice.