My insurance company has appointed solicitors but the person “dealing” with my case is utterly incompetent. She does not speak German, and simply tells me to send in the paperwork and she will look into it. We are now 14 months post-accident and I do not even know if the German driver is insured. What should I do?


First of all, get a proper lawyer. Your claims handler is a paralegal in one of the worst firms used by insurers. Your gut feel that she is clueless is the correct one. The process is simple. The German authorities run a database of all insured vehicles. This information is easily sourced from here in the UK. You can bring a claim based in German law here in the UK in a British court. However,you must bring your claim against the insurer of the German driver within three years.

The invoices are standard in a German case – they represent costs recoverable inGermany for odd things like ambulance transfers, dressings and “central charges”, all of which defeat Google Translate. These should be forwarded to the UK agents of the German driver’s insurance. The German hospital system is not really geared up to deal with foreign casualties so you do not need to worry about enforcement from a German hospital – you will just keep getting letters.

Once you have a lawyer experienced in European claims the process is simple. An English letter of claim needs to be sent to the German insurer’s UK representative. In German law there will be an early liability admission – there is a presumption in German law that the “less vulnerable” vehicle is to blame and the police report is clear what happened. The German driver was convicted within the week for driving without proper care.

A British orthopaedic surgeon will examine you here in the UK but your claim will need to be valued by a German lawyer for your pain money (literal translation of “schmertzengeld”). The rest of German law of losses is pretty similar to the English law – the only real difference is that ongoing losses in Germany are paid on an annual basis whereas English awards are paid on a lump-sum basis, but German insurers are much keener on paying as a one-off.

Andrew Dalton

RiDE October 2014