Specialist lawyers from the Stewarts’ Aviation and International Injury departments spoke at the APIL Accidents Abroad Conference, which was held in London on 22 November 2019. The programme, delivered by a range of speakers, spanned important topics at home and abroad, touching on the latest developments in international injury law and practice.
As in previous years, the event brought together lawyers and experts from across Europe to consider the funding of claims, the impact of recent legal developments, and reforms affecting travel and tourism claims. The conference also discussed the potential impact of new technology such as drones and autonomous vehicles. Of particular interest was the much-publicised collapse of Thomas Cook and what that means for personal injury claimants. This is especially relevant in light of a recent government announcement of a potential state facility dealing with the most serious of the ongoing claims.
Chris Deacon, Partner in the Aviation and International Injury department and coordinator of the APIL International Special Interest Group, opened the conference. Chris highlighted how even putting Brexit to one side it had been a busy year for cross-border personal injury specialists, particularly in the field of package travel. In this respect, Chris referred to the collapse of Thomas Cook and the Supreme Court’s reference to the Court of Justice of the European Union in X v Kuoni on the interpretation of the Package Travel Directive.
Chris was joined by Peter Neenan, Partner in the Aviation department, and Lucie Clinch, Knowledge Development Lawyer, as well as other attendees from the firm’s Aviation and International Injury departments.
With one eye still on Brexit, the morning sessions included practical advice from Gerard McDermott QC and Sarah Crowther QC on jurisdiction challenges, service abroad post Brexit and the potential increase of anti-suit injunctions. Ian Denham and Daniel Clarke of Outer Temple Chambers updated delegates on Brexit and the demise of Thomas Cook. Delegates also had the chance to hear about the various funding and compensation systems in Poland, Spain and France. It was noted that funding options overseas could be of increased importance post-Brexit if seriously injured claimants are forced to bring their claim in another country.
Peter Neenan and Max Archer of 12 KBW spoke about drones and the risks the technology presents to airports and aircraft as drones take their place in the skies alongside manned aviation/passenger jets. The talk highlighted the issues with limited insurance for recreational drone users in the context of the increase in near misses involving drones since 2015.
Lucie Clinch considered autonomous vehicles alongside James Beeton, also of 12 KBW. Lucie and James noted that there is still much work to do before this revolutionary way of driving is implemented safely and effectively. The talk covered the work of different nations in the EU in relation to autonomous driving, how they are dealing with the transition, and issues around the Automated and Electric Vehicles Act 2018. A key theme centered on data sharing, particularly in relation to accident data. In a further nod to Brexit, the talk considered the impact of autonomous driving on UK citizens injured abroad where an automated vehicle is involved, and the impending loss of current protections for those victims.
The day also included talks on the law on liability and assessing damages in Portugal, and changes in the law on package travel, including the new package travel regulations. This included insight from Katherine Deal QC on the latest developments in the much-anticipated Supreme Court decision in X v Kuoni. The day concluded with a detailed look at instructing local standards experts and avoiding the pitfalls in using the wrong expert or expertise.
Reflecting on the conference, Chris commented: “At a time when it seems the rights of injured claimants are under threat, particularly in a cross-border context and with the loss of individual rights as a consequence of Brexit, it is all the more important that we come together to share ideas and campaign to preserve the rights of our injured clients and their ability to seek redress following an accident overseas.”
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