German law and not English law was applicable to the assessment of a widow’s claim in damages in respect of the death of her husband, a British national, in a road traffic accident in Germany caused by the negligent driving of a German national insured by a German insurer. Simon Robeson, a partner specialising in personal injury matters in Kidd Rapinet’s London office said, “Laws vary significantly, even within the wider confines of the European Union, and this can have significant implications in awards for damages”.
Major Cox, an officer serving with British forces in Germany, was killed on the verge of a road near his army base when a car left the road and hit him. Major Cox’s wife subsequently sued the insurers of the driver at fault in England for bereavement and loss of dependency. Liability was not in dispute but the preliminary issue which arose was whether the assessment of damages was governed by English law or by German law.
The two relevant respects in which an award from an English Court might differ from an award under German law were:
- Damages awarded to a widow under German law would take account of any legal right to maintenance by virtue of a subsequent remarriage or a subsequent non-marital relationship following the birth of a child. Current English Law expressly excludes remarriage or the prospect of remarriage as a relevant consideration; and
- Under German law the widow might in principle be entitled to compensation for her own pain and suffering but that would require proof of suffering going beyond normal grief and amounting to psychological disturbance comparable to physical injury.
The Court ruled that German law and not the, English, Fatal Accidents Act 1976 applied in the assessment of damages in her action against the defendant insurance company. Simon Robeson comments “Having your case heard in the context of the correct country’s laws can have a major effect on practical outcomes and should be thoroughly researched before any action is started”.
If you would like assistance in personal injury litigation here or abroad, call Simon Robeson at Kidd Rapinet on 020 7265 5486 for further information.