I was knocked off my motorcycle in Austria last summer by a young man who immediately admitted fault to the police, paid his fine and sent me a note of apology written in perfect English.
His parents arranged for, and paid for, the storage of my damaged bike in Austria and my insurers arranged a quick payment for my damaged bike and appointed a law firm to deal with my personal injury claim, which I expect to be quite substantial.
I remain off work since the accident, which is coming up for a year ago, and I do not expect to return to my old trade. But my solicitors have not told me of any progress, nor can they tell me what kind of money to expect. They haven’t even told me when I can get my first interim payment.
My solicitors know who the driver’s insurers are, but I have seen no money and I am now in danger of having my house repossessed. My wife is supporting the whole family on her wages. Can you tell me what to expect?
The delay of a year is, I’m afraid, typical of a European claim. Under Austrian law you can apply to the local magistrates for an interim payment before proceedings are issued, but there is no equivalent process in English law. Foreign insurers are utterly unused to the English method of suing, but your solicitors should be well on the way to issuing proceedings here in the UK against the driver’s insurers.
Your damages will be settled under Austrian law but the reality is that Austrian damages will pay out approximately the same as English damages. We deal with a lot of European claims, and my experience is that you will only get a proper response from the Austrian insurers once you have commenced court proceedings. You also need to know how often, If at all, your current solicitors have sued for European accidents.
Worryingly, the person who has conduct of your case is not registered as a solicitor on the Law Society website, and I have a feeling that the person dealing with your situation does not know what she is doing. Bringing European cases is not especially difficult if you know what to do. If you don’t, it’s a nightmare.
You would be well advised to make sure you get a solicitor who is confident and experienced in dealing with European jurisdiction claims.
RiDE Magazine August 2015