The personal injury team at the BFP law firm specializes in every kind of personal injury case where the injury occurred on the territory of Poland. We have represented, and are still representing, hundreds of clients across Poland, as well as residents of other countries, that seek compensation for their injury resulting from medical negligence, road traffic accidents, aviation accidents, defective products, and others. [Read more.]

I am a passenger

Jolanta Budzowska26 June 2020Komentarze (0)

The recent, very informative article on compensation for passengers injured in road traffic accidents under Italian law, which can be found under the link below[1], certainly touched upon an important and practical issue. According to said article, passengers in Italy may in certain cases be deprived of a right to compensation claims for injury sustained in a road traffic accident against the insurer of the vehicle they were travelling in, and in particular if the driver of that vehicle was not at fault. But how does this compare to the analogous provisions and practice in Poland?

The outset

In general, the provisions of Polish law introduce strict liability of the autonomous or dependent possessor of a mechanical means of transport propelled by natural forces (who may, but does not necessarily have to be, the driver) for damage caused in connection with the functioning of that means of transport. As a result, the injured party (the plaintiff) does not have to prove said possessor’s fault in order for him or her to be found liable, which also applies to the liability of the insurer. The reasoning behind such regulation is that possessing a mechanical means of transport propelled by natural forces (which include, among others, cars) is connected with certain risks, as said means of transport are prone to causing damage. Therefore the possessor of such means of transport should be held strictly liable for damage caused by the functioning of it.

The passengers, though

There are however certain exceptions from this rule, one of which concerns the claims of passengers specifically. It is provided in the law that if a passenger is transported by courtesy, then in regard to the legal relationship between the possessor of the vehicle and the person transported by courtesy, the liability regime “reverts” back to the general principles, which is the fault-based liability regime – naturally much less favorable for the injured party, as they are then under the burden to prove fault. The justification here is that a person should not have to bear negative consequences (in this case, be subject to a less favorable liability regime), when they have been acting out of altruistic incentives (agreeing, as the autonomous or dependent possessor of a vehicle, that someone else may be transported by courtesy).

But what does it actually mean?

The term “transport by courtesy” is not an easy one to define. Probably the most common issue concerns situations where the injured party was travelling as a passenger together with his or her family, as part of a leisure/holiday trip. In regard to such situations specifically, the judicature is of the position that this should not be considered as transport by courtesy[2]. Therefore, in such cases it is still possible for the strict liability regime to apply in regard to the claims of the passengers against the autonomous or dependent possessor of the vehicle (and their insurer).

 

[1] https://www.eutrafficlaw.com/topics/travel-law/liability-for-passengers/

[2] judgment of the Appellate Court in Wrocław dated 29.11.2013, I ACa 1193/13, Legalis.

 

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