According to official statistics, road traffic accidents caused 1680 fatalities in Spain in 2013. A significantly higher number of people were seriously injured, a proportion of which were European visitors.
Where a personal injury or fatal accident claim is pursued in an EU Member State arising out of an accident which occurred in Spain on or after 11th January 2009, Spanish law will most likely apply to the tort by virtue of Article 4 of European Parliament and Council Regulation (864/2007) on the Law Applicable to Non-contractual Obligations (“Rome II”). Moreover, by reason of Article 15(c) of Rome II, the nature, extent and assessment of the losses and expenses claimed will be determined by reference to Spanish law.
It is important to note, therefore, that from 1st January 2016, compensation for serious personal injuries and fatal accidents under Spanish law looks likely to significantly increase as a result of new legislative reforms proposed to the Spanish system for the assessment of damages, the tariffication scales known as ‘the Baremo’.
The Bill to reform the Baremo passed through Congress (‘Congreso de los Diputados’, the Lower House of the Spanish Parliament) in June, despite the La Izquierda Plural (the ‘Plural Left’, a Spanish electoral coalition formed in the European Parliament election in 2014), firmly calling for the text of the draft legislation to be significantly revised.
The Spanish Minister of Justice, Rafael Catalá, who appeared at the plenary session of the Lower House to introduce the Bill, described it as being the product of a social reality, achieved as result of "effort of dialogue and understanding" between representatives of victims' associations, those with disabilities, insurers, public institutions and academic experts, following four years of hard work.
Under the proposed reforms outlined in the Bill, fatal accident damages will increase by 50% on average. Such increases are largely because the Bill seeks to provide for increased ‘moral’ damages, specific damages for housewives/househusbands, enhanced protection for minors, and reference to actual loss of earnings and pensions when calculating damages. Mr Catalá gave a specific example of the proposed impact of the reforms: for the death of a parent aged 40 years, who earned a net salary of €38,000 euros at the time of his death and left behind a widow and three children under 12 years of age, damages of €670,000 euros would be awarded. This figure is in stark contrast to the sum of €335,000 which would be awarded under the current Baremo scales.
However, although the Bill seeks to substantially increase fatal accident damages, and indeed, those damages to be awarded in respect of serious injuries, damages for minor ‘temporary’ injuries will decrease by an average of 2%.
Currently, of the 800,000 cases involving minor motor offenses issued each year in Spain, some 200,000 of those cases involve personal injury claims. However, it is predicted that the new legislation will decrease the number of claims being issued in the Spanish courts and increase the number of pre-action settlements. Moreover, the proposed reforms are expected to bring about other benefits for Claimants, and indeed, the Spanish economy as a whole, not least because the draft Bill will ensure that damages will be awarded in respect of future medical expenses, replacement of prosthetics and rehabilitation, thus producing savings in healthcare costs of approximately €100 million euros which are currently met by the various health services in Spain’s many autonomous communities.
The next stage of the legislative process is for the draft Bill to be delivered to the Senate.