Road traffic accidents

Road Traffic Accident Law in France

Road traffic accidents on French territory are generally subject to the French statutory provisions on no-fault liability and insurance companies are required to make an offer to victims within a very short period of time after the accident and will in any case usually settle claims without civil Court proceedings being necessary.

However, in the event that an alleged criminal motoring offence brings about bodily injuries to the victim(s) of a road traffic accident, then the French Prosecution service will usually start proceedings before the Criminal Court which is territorially competent for the place where the accident took place.

It should though be noted that, different from most common-law jurisdictions, the injured party is able to join a civil claim to the criminal action.

Thus, it is very often the case that the civil claim is heard on the same day and at the same time by the same Court which is hearing the Criminal matter.

The Court will be called upon to hand down a decision as to guilt or otherwise of the accused motorist and thereafter will hand down a decision as to amount of civil damages to be awarded to the victim(s) of the road traffic accident.

There are no juries in such Courts and civil awards are relatively low compared to the USA or even to the UK and documentary justification of the specific pecuniary or other losses sustained as well as of the medical condition is required.

The French Social Security recovery department will often join the proceedings with a view to attempting to claw back the cost of hospitalisation, ambulance etc.

In regard to injuries sustained, the Courts will often appoint an expert witness, who is a medical practitioner specialised in this field, and his or her opinion as to the medical condition of the patient and the quantum damages is binding on all parties and is generally rubber stamped by the Court.

It is often necessary for foreign victims of accident to travel to France for such an examination and an interpreter is usually required, although it has been known for French insurance companies to send expert medical witnesses to the UK, the US and even Australasia.

Some definitions of road traffic accident here : Road traffic accident