A British couple’s holiday accident claim for compensation for the serious injuries they suffered after being hit by a motorbike as they walked to the beach in Athens, is being complicated by post Brexit legal hurdles.
Zoran Kittlety and Alisha Owens from Bath were left with a broken leg and a fractured skull in the road traffic accident which happened on the first day of their Greek holiday in February 2023.
After returning home Alisha has been unable to return to work at a children’s nursery and Zoran only recently returned to his role as a manager at a builders’ merchants.
Before the UK left the European Union both would have been entitled to bring a civil claim in England against the driver’s Greek insurer. However, since leaving the EU, a civil case may now have to be brought before a Greek court, where even if a claim is successful, there may be difficulties enforcing a judgement.
Alisha, who is still recovering from her head injuries, said, “It would have been way easier to claim when we were in the EU. Now it looks like we’ll have to claim in Greece, and the time limit is only two years; it really complicates everything.”
31-year-old Zoran was left with a broken tibia and fibula which required surgery in an Athens public hospital to insert metal rods into the bones. 22-year-old Alisha, who suffered three fractures to the base of her skull, still has problems with her balance and has recently been diagnosed with PTSD.
Tracy Stansfield, travel claims expert and associate solicitor at Hudgell Solicitors said: “Both my clients suffered severe injuries where the long-term impact is still unknown; this was through no fault of their own.
“At Hudgell Solicitors we leave no stone unturned to ensure our clients are fully compensated for the accidents abroad they suffer, but the legal landscape for such claims has changed. Holidaymakers should be aware that if they are involved in a road traffic accident in Europe, the legal process can now be more complicated.”
Following Brexit, legal firms representing clients who have had an accident in the EU now have to establish jurisdiction – that courts of England and Wales have the right to hear the claim.
“This is not straight forward and there are a number of steps which we have to go through. We have to establish that damage was sustained, or will be sustained, in this country. This is generally not difficult, as clients will usually have ongoing physical or financial issues arising out of the accident,” said Ms Stansfield.
“However, we then have to establish that England is the proper place in which to bring the claim, and this is where the uncertainty now lies.”
The burden is now on the Claimant to persuade an EU country court that England or Wales is the appropriate place to hear the case. Courts will consider a number of factors such as, but not limited to:
- Factual connections
- Personal connections
- Applicable law
- Achieving the ends of justice
- Whether there is a real risk that justice will not be obtained in the foreign court.
The court must then decide whether it is appropriate to hear the claim in England or Wales or in the EU country where the accident took place.
In this case, says Ms Stansfield, even if jurisdiction was established at home, any successful claim will be subject to Greek damages and Greek limitation periods. According to Ms Stansfield the difficulties do not end there.
“Even if we are able to establish English jurisdiction and we obtain a judgment in our clients’ favour, we then have the difficulty of enforcing any judgment that we obtain.”
Zoran and Alisha, who did not take out their own private holiday insurance policy but did take their European Health Insurance Card, had planned to explore Greece for a month when they flew to Athens from Bristol Airport in February 2023.
The day after arriving, as they walked to the beach along a road with a marked pedestrian lane, they were hit from behind by a motorbike being driven by a 16-year-old. Both were capitulated into the air.
“All of a sudden, I heard a motorbike engine and skidding, it happened so quickly that I could not react fast enough to avoid being hit. The bike hit me, bounced off railings and then ricocheted back into Alisha,” recalled Zoran, “it caught her bottom half which made her flip upside down and she landed on her head.
“I was conscious at that point and looked over at Alisha who was fitting on the ground with blood all over her. I sat up to try and get to her but was in so much pain that I couldn’t move. I could see that my knee was facing forwards, but my ankle was at a 90-degree angle to the left.”
The couple were soon surrounded by locals who called ambulances, “They were shielding me from seeing Alisha as she was very bad. When the ambulance arrived, they first took Alisha to the hospital, and then the locals asked the second ambulance to take me to the same hospital.”
Zoran underwent surgery the next day and Alisha would remain unconscious for four days. Friends immediately flew out to Athens to help them.
Zoran and Alisha were discharged four days later and spent a few days recovering at an Athens apartment with their friends helping with mobility issues. They flew to Bristol Airport a week later. On the plane Alisha experienced head pains so severe that the pilot flew lower to reduce the pressure.
“I had stitches in my head and the Greek hospital told me I had three bleeds on the brain, but that I was ok to fly. The pain was terrible,” she recalled.
It wasn’t until Alisha was home that the NHS diagnosed her with multiple fractures at the base of her skull, as well as a fractured eye socket and cheek bone. “I’ve been seeing multiple teams in neurology and ear nose and throat for problems with falls and balance, neck and back muscles and I was recently diagnosed with post-traumatic-stress-disorder (PTSD) too.
“I used to go rock climbing but since the accident I’ve been afraid to leave the house by myself, I can only get to the local shop which is two minutes away, the anxiety can be terrifying. No-one seems to know how long it might take to fully recover as a brain injury is very difficult to predict.”
Zoran and Alisha are still undergoing tests and physiotherapy for their orthopaedic, head and psychiatric injuries. Ms Stansfield believes there will be “numerous legal hurdles” to overcome before Zoran and Alisha can be compensated for their injuries, loss of earnings and medical treatment.
“We have established that the accident was reported to the police and that the driver of the motorbike has been identified. It would appear that he is insured, although we are awaiting confirmation from his insurers.
“We have also looked at the CCTV footage of the incident and are now in receipt of the Greek hospital notes. We are liaising with our Greek lawyers and the police, who are deciding whether a criminal prosecution will be brought.
“In due course, we will have to consider whether to issue proceedings in England or Greece. Prior to us leaving the EU, our clients’ financial settlements would have been decided in an English court. The legal process is now more difficult and could take much longer to resolve.”
Hudgell Solicitors Accidents Abroad team now intends to obtain independent medical evidence from a range of specialist consultants to assess the impact of Alisha and Zoran’s injuries.
“I think the final outcome will be a testament to the knowledge and ability of our travel team, who have overcome so many challenges in previous cases, that we believe we can eventually secure a fair and good settlement.”
Road Traffic Accidents Abroad Compensation Claims
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When you’re involved in a road traffic accident overseas, the aftermath can be difficult to deal with. The law concerning road traffic accident claims abroad differ between countries, and there’s also the language barrier to deal with, which can make the situation more complicated.