How Will Brexit Affect Personal Injury Claims?

The UK is now more than half a year into its two-year countdown for officially leaving the EU. Cutting ties with the EU is set to cause massive social, economic and political upheaval. But of course, the scope of these three areas makes it difficult to forecast how Brexit will affect them overall.

So, focusing on a single, key area could offer a clearer idea of the Brexit impact. One aspect that some are not aware of when it comes to Brexit is that there are various EU directives and regulations which currently apply to personal injury claims. UK lawyers utilise these when assisting clients, but such practices may soon be subject to change.

Here, Tilly Bailey & Irvine Law Firm — medical negligence solicitors — explore how Brexit could affect personal injury claims.

How do EU regulations and directives affect personal injury claims?

Currently, we have three main examples of how the EU currently affects personal injury claims in the UK:

  1. The Consumer Protection Act 1987

This act, as well as its associated regulations, was passed because of an EU directive from 1985 — which saw strict liability being put against producers of substandard products. It predominantly covers product safety, which means that it gives consumers protection whenever buying goods and services in the UK.

  1. The 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act

The groundwork for the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act came from The European Framework Directive on Safety and Health at Work. This 1974 EU directive guarantees the minimum safety and health requirements that businesses across the continent must put in place to protect workers and visitors on a site or workplace.

  1. Accidents outside of the UK

These EU directives and regulations also help UK residents who have accidents abroad. For example; there’s the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) scheme. At the moment, this gives those from the UK the right to access state-provided healthcare whenever they are temporarily situated somewhere else in the European Economic Area. Approximately 27 million EHIC cards have been issued across the UK to date, so changes to this will be felt countrywide. EHIC cards are helpful in times when someone in the UK has an accident in a EU Member State, regardless of the extent of their travel insurance cover.

Also, a law from the European “Sixth Directive” 2009 assists those who have had an accident in an EU member nation which was caused by an uninsured driver. If an incident like this occurs, the person from the UK can make a claim and request compensation through the UK’s Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB). As a result, a process is started where the MIB seeks reimbursement from the equivalent office that is set up in the country where the accident took place.

Main facts about EU regulations and directives

What is meant by EU regulations and directives? Legal acts that are provided for in the EU Treaty are known as EU directives. Once in place, all member states of the EU must make them national law, and they have a deadline to do so.

When it comes to the UK, EU directives have been turned into laws using Statutory Instruments. This is a process that means the government isn’t required to create a new piece of law and get it passed through parliament every time a new legal act is created.

Regarding EU regulations, these are slightly different. EU regulations are the more specific parts of EU directives. They are basically the minimum requirements and fundamental principles that members of the EU must follow once the legal acts are instated.

What are the possible changes that Brexit might cause?

The UK has a great legal task on its hands following the official divorce from the EU. To elaborate, the UK government must pass new laws to take the place of former European laws which, until then, had helped to form part of UK law. However, the public shouldn’t worry too much. Until any such motion is made, nothing will change — old European laws will not instantly stop being relevant just because the UK is no longer a part of the EU.

In fact, we have already seen movements towards getting a clearer picture of the future of laws pertaining to personal injury claims. Regarding the EHIC scheme, there has already been a deal in principle agreed by negotiators in Brussels at the end of August 2017, which involved Brexit Secretary, David Davis. Essentially, this agreement outlines that a British pensioner who has retired in another EU country and then travels to another EU nation for holidays can still use their EHIC card whenever they need medical attention. Although this does not include everyone, this move is a positive indicator for the future of the EHIC scheme.

Of course, there are very few, if any, definite outcomes regarding the UK’s divorce from the EU at the moment. Hopefully, the more discussions and negotiations that take place, the clearer we’ll be on what to expect in 2019 when the UK’s grace period runs out. Essentially, we will have to wait until we know for sure how Brits will make personal injury claims post-Brexit and how lawyers will be able to assist their clients.