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Alicia Alinia discusses 'Coach crash tragedy in France'

It’s a parents’ worse nightmare to hear of their child’s involvement in a serious accident during a school trip. The coach accident yesterday evening in France which resulted in the death of a dedicated teacher and a number of injuries for the young pupils of Worcestershire School, four of whom have so far been reported to have suffered serious injuries, has caused shock and sadness across the country. Early reports suggest that the coach driver may have fallen asleep. Whilst enquiries into a possible criminal case are no doubt being considered, there is likely to be a civil liability aspect to this horrific accident. Of course any civil claim for personal injuries will not in any way make up for the significant trauma experienced by the pupils but may assist in establishing precisely what occurred. It is important that detailed investigations are carried out as a matter of urgency so all evidence can be considered whilst fresh. An inquiry is crucial so as to establish what lessons need to be learned in order to ensure such an incident never occurs again.Trips abroad by coaches involving children are common place and, whilst they are not to be deterred, they must take place in the safest environment with all the safeguards in place so as to ensure there are no issues as regard, for example, driver fatigue, if this is considered to have played a contributory role here. In so far as any compensation is concerned, as the accident occurred in France ordinarily French law would apply however the situation may be different where the accident abroad involves both a claimant and defendant from a different jurisdiction i.e. here they are both English. It ought to be mentioned that French law in relation to road traffic accidents is slightly different to our English system as accidents are governed by what is legally termed as ‘strict liability’. This means that once it is established that an injury has been caused by the driver of a vehicle, the victim is entitled to compensation from that driver through his insurer whether the accident was as a result of a driving error or not. There are interesting jurisdictional issues which arise in these cases assuming that both the Claimant and Defendant are UK based as they would arguably be entitled to damages in accordance with English Law. This is of course a departure from the usual rule which provides that damages would follow the law in the jurisdiction where the loss occurred. Of course a civil claim will not in any way make up for the significant trauma experienced by the pupils. All steps must be taken so as to investigate these traumatic events but for the families of those who have lost their lives or for those who have suffered serious injuries it is important that they are adequately compensated. Insofar as those seriously injured are concerned such compensation can be invaluable in providing much needed funding to assist in their treatment and overall rehabilitation.In the meantime we extend our sincerest condolences to those who lost a loved one.

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