This weekend I attended the 19th annual Pan European Organisation of Personal Injury Lawyers (PEOPIL) conference in Madrid, Spain. This, the annual jamboree for Personal Injury lawyers from across Europe, covered much interesting ground.
Professor Miquel Martín Casals’ talk on the new Spanish Baremo, which is something like a hybrid between the Judicial College Guidelines and the Ogden tables except much more prescriptive, corrected a misconception that the multiplicand for use in the future loss of earnings calculation in Spain is limited to €120,000 pa. He pointed out that the principle of full compensation applied under Spanish law and the only reason that the future loss of earnings table stopped at €120,000 was because there had only been 4 cases in recent years where a claim involved annual earnings of more than €120,000. Quite apart from showing an apparent disparity between Spanish and English annual earnings this authoritative opinion (Professor Casals sat on the commission responsible for the new Spanish Baremo) provides a measure of reassurance for (well-paid) English claimants injured in Spain.
The fatal accidents panel discussion highlighted the major disparity for bereavement damages available in different European countries. Awards in England and Wales are among the lowest. The bereavement award of £12,980 in England and Wales is to be contrasted to the Spanish and Italian bereavement awards (called moral damages) where multiple awards can be made to different family members including siblings, uncles and aunts and even parents-in-law, and can be as much as €90,000 per family member. However, while the bereavement award in England and Wales is low, it is still better than the situation in Germany and Holland where there is simply no provision for a bereavement award.
The talk given by Professor James Goudkamp from the University of Oxford provided interesting insights into the difference between contributory negligence in law and as applied by the courts. It came as quite a shock to me that his empirical study suggested that English courts were far more likely to find that children were guilty of contributory negligence despite it being trite law that it should be less easy to find a child guilty of contributory negligence than an adult.
There were many other excellent talks at the conference, including talks on class actions in the United States, practical guidance on bringing personal injury claims in the ECHR, the claim being brought in Dortmund, Germany, arising from the horrendous fire in the garment factory in Bangladesh, and others.
However, the talk which stuck most in my mind was that given by Javier Cremades, of Cremades & Calvo-Sotelo, relating to the plight of Leopoldo Lopez and the other prisoners of conscience being held in jail in Venezuela. It is inspiring and heartening the see the best legal minds in Europe taking action to try to change their desperate situation.