The recent bus accident in Rome carrying British and French tourists highlights the importance of protecting the legal rights of passengers injured in bus and coach accidents in Europe and ensuring those protections are kept post-Brexit.
On 13 August 2017 a bus carrying British and French tourists crashed into a low bridge in the Italian capital, Rome. According to press reports 18 of the passengers were injured, including 3 with serious injuries.
There may be a number of options available to the injured passengers who were travelling on the bus, depending on how they bought their bus ticket.
As with all EU countries, it is a legal requirement in Italy for the bus to be insured. This enables the passengers to bring a claim for compensation for the injuries and losses they have suffered against the insurer of the bus company.
Chris Deacon, Senior Associate in Stewarts Law's specialist international injury team commented:
"As a result of EU Motor Directives British residents who are injured in a road accident in Europe are able to bring a claim in Britain directly against the motor insurer of the vehicle that was responsible for the accident. One of the biggest advantages to this European law is that those who have been seriously injured can return home and then make a claim through our own courts. That means they do not have to go through the stress, inconvenience and cost of travelling back to the country where the accident occurred to obtain compensation."
In addition, although such situations are fortunately rare with established bus and tour companies in Europe, if the operator has failed to put in place mandatory motor insurance, it is also a requirement throughout Europe for each country to have an uninsured compensation fund. In the UK the Motor Insurers' Bureau is the organisation responsible for dealing with such claims for injured Brits when they return home.
Another possibility is that the passengers may have been travelling on the bus as part of a package holiday, or participating in an excursion booked as part of a package holiday. In that situation, the passengers are likely to have a claim against the tour operator. This is because under the Package Travel etc. Regulations 1992 (which are due to be reformed in the coming year under a new European Directive), the tour operator is responsible for any injury caused by the negligence of the companies it uses to provide the package holiday, including any local transport providers.
Chris Deacon added: "these provisions of EU law have become a fundamental part of the protection given to British nationals when they are travelling in Europe, for business or pleasure. With millions of Brits travelling across Europe every year, it is essential that the UK government ensures these protections remain after Brexit so that anyone seriously injured overseas is not denied access to justice and compensation when it is most needed following a life-changing injury."