March 2019 is the expected date that the UK will sever all ties with the EU. Already, we have such uncertainty throughout our economic and political sectors that it’s difficult to determine how this divorce will affect key areas of law and business.
Experts predict everyone will feel the impact of Brexit in 2019. But since many of our health and safety laws are connected with EU regulations and directives, could personal injury claims be one of the main areas affected?
Looking into how UK lawyers, clients and practices might change post-Brexit is law firm Tilly Bailey and Irvine — experts in medical negligence claims.
What is the current situation with EU directives and regulations?
Many people aren’t completely clear on what exactly EU directives and regulations are. To start, we’ll look at directives. Essentially, EU directives are legal acts and laws aimed at EU member states. Once enacted, every nation that is part of the EU must make them national law by a stated deadline. What does this mean for the UK? EU directives have been turned into laws using Statutory Instruments. This is a process that means the government isn’t required to create a new piece of law and get it passed through parliament every time a new legal act is created.
Contrastingly, EU regulations are more specific than directives. EU regulations are basically the minimum requirements and fundamental principles that members of the EU must follow once the legal acts are instated.
What are the main EU regulations and directives that could affect personal injury claims?
There are several EU regulations and directives in the UK. The main ones are:
Suffering an accident or injury abroad
When residents of the UK go abroad, whether travelling or on holiday, many rely on the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) scheme. At the moment, this gives those from the UK the right to access state-provided healthcare whenever they are temporarily situated somewhere else in the European Economic Area. Approximately 27 million EHIC cards have been issued across the UK to date, so changes to this will be felt countrywide. EHIC cards are helpful in times when someone in the UK has an accident in a EU Member State, regardless of the extent of their travel insurance cover.
The EHIC scheme is very handy for giving UK citizens help and peace of mind when abroad in the EU, but there is also another law from the European “Sixth Directive” 2009. This helps passport holders of an EU country who have had an accident in an EU member nation which was caused by an uninsured driver. If an incident like this occurs, the person from the UK can make a claim and request compensation through the UK’s Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB). As a result, a process is started where the MIB seeks reimbursement from the equivalent office that is set up in the country where the accident took place.
Health and Safety at Work Act (1974)
A fundamental directive, the 1974 Health and Safety Work Act guarantees the nation’s basic safety and health requirements for employees and employers across the EU. Companies operating within the EU must put in place certain safeguards to protect workers and visitors on a site or workplace. The groundwork for the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act came from The European Framework Directive on Safety and Health at Work.
Consumer Protection Act (1987)
In the 1980s, the Consumer Protection Act came into force to ensure and improve product safety for buyers across the political union. This means that people paying for goods and services in the UK are protected. The Consumer Protection Act 1987, and its associated regulations, was passed as a result of an EU directive from 1985 — which ensured strict liability for producers of substandard products.
The after-effects of the EU divorce on personal injury claims
We hope that the divorce in 2019 is not as chaotic as many predict. However, this depends on the government’s ability to negotiate the best leaving terms with the EU. A huge factor affecting the UK’s future stability will be the replacement of EU directives and regulations. The prime minister and their cabinet must have in place appropriate UK laws to take over from the former EU laws. However, the public shouldn’t worry too much. Until any such motion is made, nothing will change — old European laws will not instantly stop being relevant just because the UK is no longer a part of the EU.
Positively, things are looking good for the personal injury claim sector specifically. There’s evidence that those in power have already broached the subject of Brexit’s impact. This has come in the form of the EHIC scheme, where there has been a deal in principle agreed by negotiators in Brussels at the end of August this year, which involved David Davis, the Brexit Secretary. Essentially, this agreement outlines that a British pensioner who has retired in another EU country and then travels to another EU nation for holidays can still use their EHIC card whenever they need medical attention. Although this does not include everyone, this move is a positive indicator for the future of the EHIC scheme.
Overall, nobody knows how Brexit will truly affect personal injury claims and the legal experts who must deal with them. But hopefully, the more discussions and negotiations that take place, the clearer we’ll be on what to expect. For now, how UK residents will make personal injury claims post-Brexit and how lawyers will be able to assist their clients, remains uncertain.