Cross-border claims: Three key things to know about the UK legal system

Read time: 4 minutes

The UK is well-known for having some of the busiest, most congested roads in Europe. Indeed, recent figures show that there are now over 40 million registered vehicles in Britain, more than ever before.

Despite many vehicles today being fitted with safety features to protect drivers and alert them of potential dangers, crowded UK roads still saw over 91,000 traffic accidents in 2020 alone.

For insurers of vehicles entering the UK from another European country, or indeed for those travelling across borders in the UK, these figures make for a worrying read.

Whilst insurance claims for accidents involving two parties can be very expensive for those required to pay damages, what is often overlooked is the added complication and hidden expense of handling claims across borders, within legal systems that differ from the country in which an insurer is based.

To help insurers manage cross-border claims, there are three things it’s important to know about the UK legal system.

Jurisdictions across the UK

Firstly, Scotland, England and Wales, and Northern Ireland are three separate legal jurisdictions, with their own processes and practices in place.

Although, in the main, all three are quite similar, the legal language and terminology they use can differ, adding confusion. A prime example is how each system describes the person making a claim.

In England and Wales, they are the ‘claimant,’ in Scotland, the ‘pursuer’ and a ‘plaintiff’ in Northern Ireland.

The costs of claims varies

The cost of making a claim will also vary across the UK, depending on which jurisdiction it occurs in and in which court it is heard.

In England and Wales for example, where the majority of vehicle-related accidents occur due to the size of the population, the general rule is that the at-fault party will pay the other party’s costs. How costs are calculated in the English and Welsh Courts will depend on the value of the damages and the hourly rate charged by the court, which is determined by the court itself.

For this reason, when making a new claim, it’s important to not only look at the value of the damages involved, but also to take the time to evaluate the cost spend. This will provide a true sense of the value of the claim.

Some courts in England, depending on the significance of the case, also require a barrister to be present at all hearings, which again comes with an additional cost.

The Burden of Proof

Finally, it’s important to understand how a final decision is made for a traffic-related claim in UK courts.

As these claims are classed as civil cases in the UK, rather than criminal ones, the Burden of Proof rests on the claimant’s ability to prove that their version of events is true, which is done using the ‘Balance of Probabilities.’

This is referred to by some as the ‘51% or greater’ rule, where judges have to decide, based on probability, whether the claimant has proved their case, using the available evidence.

The ‘Balance of Probabilities’ approach differs greatly from criminal cases, whereby judgment can only be passed when there is evidence proving one way or the other beyond reasonable doubt.

This is an important point for insurers, should they have to handle a claim in the UK, they will need to be properly prepared to prove their case within this particular framework.

Ultimately, it’s vital that insurers offering cross-border cover for vehicles in the UK really understand the different procedures and processes observed across Britain. Only then can they ensure the efficient and smooth management of any claims, avoid any surprises in additional costs and maximise the chances of a positive outcome.

To find out more about Van Ameyde’s cross-border claims expertise, please visit – https://uk.vanameyde.com/van-ameyde-solutions/.

Credit hire and the UK legal system – watch full webinar now here: https://www.vanameyde.com/cross-border-motor-claims-management/

Speakers: David Wilson, Regional Managing Director, Van Ameyde UK & Ireland, Richard Temp, Operations Manager, Van Ameyde UK, Stephanie Rogerson, Senior Associate, Kennedys

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