Strict liability for catastrophic accident in France

Posted: 7th August 2012

A schoolgirl catastrophically injured when a family friend accidentally reversed a car over her head is guaranteed very substantial compensation after a judge Town Hall in Franceruled that the driver’s insurers are ‘strictly liable’ for the accident under French law.

Kira Middleton was a toddler when she strayed behind the car at her mother's then home in Bergerac, France. As it reversed, the car knocked her down and ran over her head, causing catastrophic injuries from which the now 12-year-old will never fully recover.

Although she is well enough to attend school, Kira's injuries have left her seriously disabled and she will require care and support, special accommodation and equipment for the rest of her life.

After a preliminary hearing on jurisdictional issues, Mr Justice Griffith Williams ruled that, as the accident happened in France where Kira and her mother were then settled, French law applies to her case.

That means that insurers for the car’s driver are strictly liable for the accident under the ‘Loi Badinter’. There is no need to consider whether the driver acted negligently or was only partly to blame. The mere fact that he or she was the driver automatically imposes responsibility.

The amount of compensation due to Kira for the injuries she suffered in the February 2002 accident will be assessed by an English judge at a future hearing, unless her lawyers now reach a final settlement with the driver’s insurers.