Most are minor administrative matters but there are a few which require positive steps to be taken.

The most obvious of these is that it is a really bad idea to go to the EU, especially France, without fully comprehensive insurance. The reason: French law will simply not recognise a UK judgment for an accident which happened in France.

If you are in France and your motorcycle is damaged by the negligence of another road user with insurance, as a matter of French substantive law, you are entitled to the losses flowing from that act of negligence.

The same position applies across the EU and, with minor variations, it is close to universal. So, if your bike is knocked down as you order your croissants there should be no problems. Well, prior to Brexit, apart from the general ball-ache of insurance paperwork that would have been correct. Now things have got much more difficult.

No obligation

Since the UK left the EU, EU based insurers are under no obligation to keep a UK representative registered in the UK to deal with your claim in English.

Some do, many don’t. If the driver of the offending vehicle either declines to give you their insurance or drives off leaving you with just a scribble of their plate, you are left with having to ascertain who insures the vehicle. This can be done using the French database and the British Motor Insurance Database can help for some insurers. Clearly this has become an arduous business.

Pre Brexit, If you had the registration number, you could track the insurer down in a few minutes on a UK database and bring your claim in the UK in English. Now you will be picking your way, in French, to get to the insurers on their database. You also have no method of bringing a claim from the UK without the cooperation of French insurers. So what to do…?

Mutual arrangement

Get fully comprehensively insured before you go to the EU. A minor car park spill involving another driver will almost certainly lead to a world of frustration. Your insurers may well have a mutual arrangement with the French insurers because these difficulties cut both ways; a French motard in the UK will have exactly the same problems as we have in France. No insurer likes to pay out for a loss when another insurer is on the hook so there are already arrangements developing between UK and EU based insurers.

Unless you are fluent in written and spoken French, bringing your own claim against a French insurer is difficult and if push comes to shove, you will have to commence your claim in France, in a French Court and you have no chance at all of getting a French lawyer to act on a no win no fee agreement.

Traditionally a starting retainer for a French lawyer is about €2000. Which you won’t get back. So, let your fully comp take the strain and let your insurers set about attempting to recover your outlay. I am a lawyer with a decent understanding of French law and passably good written French and I wouldn’t want to do this.

Andrew Dalton

Bike Magazine March 2022