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Limitation periods for traffic accidents

European travellers may become victims of a car accident in another EU country ('visiting victims'). This could lead to claiming compensation for damages that they suffer in the accident.

Legal rules differ across EU

Each EU country has different procedural rules for claiming the compensation.
There are two main differences:

  • compensation awards: EU countries apply different concepts as regards liability for damages and injuries in relation to car accidents;
  • limitation periods: time limits are different in terms of length, type, etc.

The existing differences with respect to limitation and prescription periods in EU countries may give rise to undesirable consequences for the visiting victims:

  • they may run the risk of receiving no compensation for harm suffered due to particularly short limitation or prescription periods applicable in the EU country where the accident occurred;
  • they may also lack knowledge regarding the commencement of or the possibilities of suspending these periods.

European legislation has not yet harmonised the rules on limitation and prescription periods in general, and those on traffic accidents in particular.

A need for reform

The Commission launched a public consultation between 19 July and 19 November 2012. The aim of the consultation was to seek opinions on existing difficulties that victims of road accidents, which have occurred in a Member State other than that of their domicile, may face in obtaining compensation due to differences in limitation periods for the damages claims. The results of the consultation will help to establish possible options to address those difficulties.