Peopil looks to align damages

EUROPEAN personal injury lawyers have set up a think tank through which to examine the potential for harmonising personal injury damages throughout the European Union. This move followed an impassioned plea for action by the lead ing personal injury silk Dan Brennan QC.

Brennan, of Edwin Glasgow QC's 39 Essex Street chambers, urged EC lawyers attending the Pan European Organisation

of Personal Injury Lawyers (PEOPIL) conference in Barcelona earlier this month to campaign for damages harmonisation by lobbying EU bodies.

Brennan criticised moves by German and Spanish governments to impose a tariff-based system of damages on those bringing claims in personal injury cases and argued: “The only way to stop the onslaught on damages is to campaign against it.”

Damages vary hugely throughout the EC – loss of an eye in Portugal is worth about £5,000 and redress through the courts takes on average five years, while in Britain it can take as little as one year to win £20,000 in compensation.

Bereavement is a recognised category of damages in the UK, but it isn't recognised in the Netherlands, Greece or Portugal. According to Greek delegate Rosana Dactylidis of Dactylidis & Verbist, post traumatic stress disorder, which is widely accepted in the UK, is unheard of in Greek courts.

The 100 PEOPIL delegates attending the conference voted to set up a committee to examine the possibilities for harmonisation.

PEOPIL chairman John Price, a partner at Bond Pearce, said the organisation would decide whether to lobby the EU after the committee reported back – at some point before next year's conference.

Price said he “doubted it would be possible” for total harmonisation to take place owing to the disparities of economies and domestic laws and the use of juries in deciding levels of damages, but that similar principles could be introduced.

Price said “everybody” would be “enriched to a certain extent” by the issue of harmonisation being considered, but warned the EC might “harmonise downwards.”