If you have an accident at work, on the roads or abroad, there is a raft of EU laws and directives in place to give you rights and protection.
Consequently, if the UK votes to leave the EU, it could be that in future accident victims will find it more difficult to bring a case to court because these laws and directives are no longer in place.
As things stand if you have an accident abroad, you have the right to pursue a claim against the tour operator under UK law which incorporates an EU directive. A Brexit would open the door to these regulations either being restricted or removed altogether which would mean pursing your case in the country in which the accident happened.
It’s a similar situation with accidents at work. The main “six pack” health and safety regulations are derived from EU directives subsequently turned into secondary legislation in the early 1990s. This is the main body of legislation relied on by employees who take out civil claims against employers and were a major step forward in protecting the rights of injured workers. As a member of the EU, the UK has to have these regulations incorporated into domestic law.
Although a Brexit would not directly change the Scottish legal system, it remains to be seen what course of action the Scottish or UK Governments might take. One only has to look at the effect of section 69 of the Enterprise Regulation & Reform Act (ERRA) 2013 where overnight many of the civil law rights for UK workers were wiped out or watered down.
At UK Government level there are proposals to remove compensation for victims who suffer a soft tissue injury in a road traffic accident in England and Wales – claims described by Justice Secretary Lord Faulks as ‘unnecessary’. Therefore, the possibility of further reform to the detriment of accident victims in the event of a Brexit is a very real possibility.
Similarly the Scottish Government has introduced court reform legislation which has removed the automatic sanction for counsel in cases worth between £5000 and £100,000 under the guise of cost-saving and modernising the civil justice system. This has created even greater inequality between accident victims and the insurers of at-fault parties.
Whilst the EU is by no means perfect, the rights currently provided do go some way towards affording accident victims protection from meddling politicians.
• Scott Whyte is MD of Watermans Accident Claims and Care