The Road Traffic Accident Victims' Charter


By Dr. Martin Metzler, Lawyer, Zurich


The IETL, the Institute for European Traffic Law, maintains close contacts with various organisations(1). These include the Council of Bureaux, then there is PEOPIL, the Pan-European Organisation of Personal Injury Lawyers. Finally, the IETL has close links with the Secretariat of the UNECE, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, in Geneva (UNECE/TD/SITC)(2).

Within the framework of these contacts, the idea was born years ago to dedicate a UNECE (TD/SITC) Charter to traffic accident victims. Since traffic rules are already globally and comprehensively agreed in the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic and the nation states retain their regulatory sovereignty within the framework of this international agreement, the Charter cannot and will not deal with traffic rules, nor with questions of liability and the actual law of compensation, because these areas are also subject to national legislative prerogatives. It may also be taken as established knowledge that Europe's insurers generally settle liability law claims arising from traffic accidents mostly courteously and efficiently. The fact that disagreements between traffic accident victims and their legal representatives on the one hand and insurers on the other very rarely have to be settled in court confirms the generally good and efficient work of insurers in most countries of Europe and their representatives.

What often may be criticised, on the other hand, is the interpersonal behaviour in the context of claims settlement. This often leads to unnecessarily stressful situations. The representatives of traffic victims sometimes vigorously demand what is not legally due to their clients. On the other hand, insurers can play a kind of attritional game and sometimes deny claims that are obviously due. This is where the Charter comes in. It calls on both sides to uphold fair play. When the risk is covered under the policy and their insured is liable, Insurers are expected to settle claims from legitimate claimants in a fair, efficient and amicable manner.

On the other hand, road traffic victims and their representatives should, by their fair manner of submitting justified claims, contribute to ensuring that the compensation due can be settled quickly and for the benefit of the injured parties. The aim of the Charter is to improve the situation of road traffic victims by alleviating anger, annoyance and pain suffered through the proposed application of ten principles concerning road traffic accident victims' rights. In any event, the principles of the Charter are neither envisaged to be exhaustive nor binding as a code of conduct. Rather, it is an appeal to provide the best possible assistance to road traffic accident victims in their post-accident situation and to give them - or in the event of death, their surviving dependants - quickly and fairly what they deserve: a decent and respectful way of dealing with each other.


Picture: Dassel/Pixabay

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