Equalising EU personal injury law
With the enlargement of the EU and better pan-European monitoring of workplace health and safety standards, discussions are now taking place about the possibility of equalising personal injury regulations across member states.
Can personal injury compensation amounts be equalised?
Debate about whether or not personal injury law regulations should be equalised has been going on since the Seventies and in 1975 a resolution was accepted across the EU relating to personal injury compensation.
Along with negotiations about compensation settlement figures, a European Scale for rating the severity of a bodily injury is on the current list of considerations. On the scale being proposed, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) would qualify for between 12 and 20 per cent disability while the amputation of a big toe would achieve six per cent.
Standardising the level of personal injury damages in the immediate future does not seem likely, however, as there are currently so many different standards in EU member states relating to living, including tax and social security systems.
Those who want standardisation to take place have said that the different amounts of compensation in different EU countries look like a 'Tower of Babel of definitions' and make personal injury compensation processes at this present time a 'lottery'.
Debating the legal feasibility of pan-EU standardisation
Questions have furthermore been raised about the feasibility of current regulatory suggestions by PEOPIL - the Pan-European Organisation of Personal Injury Lawyers - which includes practitioners, academics and personal injury specialists from all over Europe.
PEOPIL has suggested that the EU does not have the legislative competence to regulate compensation in personal injury law and said there isn't "a sufficiently well-established and common legal background to permit intervention by European legislature in respect of specific detailed provision for categories of recoverable loss, methods of assessment (including criteria for medico-legal evaluation) and minimum levels of awards for general damages."
They have also said that the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (December 2000) "may lead to uniform civil rights" if European Parliament incorporates it into the European Treaty. This in turn may affect personal injury law.
The lack of full consensus on the issue means that for now, however, personal injury accident claims in the UK will continue to be processed independently of other EU countries.
More information about PEOPIL and its views on European personal injury law can be found at www.peopil.com.
Health and Safety Executive - maintaining standards in the UK
EU legislation and the health and safety executive are theoretically meant to make all EU member states bound by standards, and force employers to maintain them in the workplace.
The Health and Safety Commission works with local government to enforce workplace standards in England, Scotland and Wales in places like schools, hospitals and power installations. In order to do this, they require compliance from employers in maintaining their workplace obligations and monitoring by over 400 local authorities.
Over one million premises are monitored including offices, shops, retail/wholesale distribution, hotel and catering establishments, petrol stations, residential care homes and the leisure industry. This affects the health and safety of around 11 million employed people.
Occupational health and safety is still a big subject for international debate, along with EU health and safety law. A critical part of this is the Framework Directive (implemented in 1993 by the Management Regulations) which outlines obligations for employers to evaluate, avoid and reduce workplace risks.
The HSC is sponsored by the Department of Work and Pensions. More information about the HSE can be found at www.hse.gov.uk.