The interpretation of the wording of EC Regulation 864/2007 (Rome II) has been one of the hot topics in the field of international travel litigation for the past couple of years. It was readily accepted, following the implementation of Rome II, that the law of the country where the accident occurred should ordinarily apply to the assessment of damages. However there was ongoing uncertainty regarding the temporal scope of Rome II, ie from what date its terms begin to apply.
Following a request for clarification from the UK judiciary in the case of Homawoo v GMF Assurances SA (C 412-10)), the European Court of Justice has now confirmed Rome II only applies to accidents occurring after 11 January 2009.
This decision is significant because the amount of damages can vary substantially following an accident, depending on the applicable law. For example, English damages are usually significantly more favourable than those awarded in other EU countries.
For a claimant resident in England who had an accident elsewhere in the EU before or on that date, the choice of law will be governed by the Private International Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1995, which means English law ordinarily applies when assessing the amount of damages to be awarded. This decision is therefore good news for English claimants if they were involved in an accident in the EU before the cut off date of 11 January 2009. Damages for accidents which occur abroad after this date will now be assessed according to the law of the country where the accident occurred and will therefore be lower in the majority of cases.
There are however some exceptions to this general rule so legal advice should always be sought to clarify the applicable law for the quantification of damages even if the accident occurs after 11 January 2009.