Sometimes it does not matter how well you are trained…

Jolanta Budzowska        08 July 2016        Comments (0)

In one of our cross-border road traffic accident cases, the personal injury team represented a client who was injured in a serious RTA that occurred in 2012 in Gdynia, Poland.

Our client in this case was a citizen of the United States of America and a soldier of the elite Navy SEAL force. He was travelling by car with his colleagues from the force; the reason for their visit in Poland was to instruct and train Polish soldiers. The accident occurred as their vehicle was struck from the side by another driver who, as it later turned out, was driving under the influence, and missed a red light on the crossroads.

Our client unfortunately sustained the most serious injuries out of all of the participants. These injuries included, among others, brain damage, which despite rigorous and lengthy treatment and rehabilitation, has unfortunately resulted in aphasia. Aphasia is a disorder that mainly affects the ability to speak and read fluently. Thankfully, extensive treatment and rehabilitation in the United States has greatly improved our client’s condition, however the disorder is permanent, and some deficits are likely to persist permanently.

The case introduced significant challenges due to its many cross-border elements. The accident occurred in Poland, but was caused by a German citizen, whose car was registered in Germany and insured by a local insurance company. On top of that the injured party was a citizen of the United States of America, therefore not a Member State of the European Union. These specific circumstances meant that issues such as applicable law or jurisdiction were far from straightforward.

Initially however we decided to try and settle the case out of court, and in order to do so, we have contacted the insurance company based in Germany directly. Communication proved to be challenging in the beginning, however the insurer quickly appointed a Polish attorney to represent them in the settlement negotiations. From there we were able to conduct fairly smooth negotiations, which fortunately did end with an agreement that felt satisfactory to all parties.

In Poland, settlements in personal injury cases are extremely rare, which is important to keep in mind whenever the final outcome of this case would be considered. The amount paid to our client on the basis of the settlement was 175.000 EUR, which is slightly more than 700.000 PLN. Polish courts rarely award such high sums in personal injury cases, much less would such sums be agreed upon in an out of court settlement. In our experience the insurer in Poland is usually willing to voluntarily pay only a small fraction of the compensation that is later awarded in court, but in this case, it would seem we had the quite opposite situation.

While the harm of our client resulting from the accident was undoubtedly severe, it is highly unlikely that a Polish court would award redress (i.e. compensation for strictly non-pecuniary damages) in an amount exceeding 700.000 PLN; it is more likely that the award would be lower, perhaps even significantly so. It also cannot be overlooked that a trial in this case would surely be a lengthy and difficult one.

Having that in mind, the settlement that was concluded in the end can be reasonably considered as a very positive outcome.

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