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Personal injury and road accidents involving foreigners in Italy

If you have been involved in a car accident in Italy, there are a few crucial aspects you need to be aware of.

Italian legislation on road accident and personal injury can be puzzling and complex. Depending on the circumstances of the case, a car accident may become a criminal issue, as it is for fatal accidents, or a civil and/or criminal issue for matters of not-lethal injuries.

According to the terms of the Italian Highway Code (Codice della Strada) it is mandatory to provide help in the event of an accident, whether an individual is involved in it or just passing by.

Notice that, in Italy, medical care is provided free of charge (for EU citizens) by the National Health Service (NHS) through the Local Health Authority (ASL) in all hospitals.

What to do at the scene of an accident?

First step is to stop immediately.

If needed call the Emergency Aid line (Soccorso Pubblico di Emergenza):113 or the Police (Carabinieri): 112.  In the event of a serious accident in which people are injured call the Health Emergency line (Emergenza Sanitaria): 118 for an ambulance. Provide to the competent authorities clear details about the location of the accident and what happened: the type and number of vehicles involved and the number of injured people, so that the emergency services may find the site easily and be properly prepared.

In case of accident occurred in motorways, please be aware that it is mandatory to put on a reflective jacket before leaving the car, especially in bad weather or at night. If the vehicle is blocking the road, use hazard lights and place a warning triangle (triangolo di emergenza) 30m from the scene to warn oncoming traffic. Remember Italian motorways have red SOS freephones about every two kilometres – each of these has at least two buttons, one to request medical help (Soccorso Medico) and another for road emergency (Assistenza Stradale).Wait for assistance near to the SOS box.

In any event of road accident, it is always crucial to take note carefully of the names and addresses of all parties involved and/or any present witness and then to report and exchange the details of the insurance companies of the parties, usually located on the label inside the windshield of the car. It is always a good idea to take pictures of the accident scene. It is compulsory to notify promptly to the company the event of the accident and that proves a very useful mean of evaluation of the specific dynamics of the case.

With the arrival of Italian Authorities at the scene of the accident, they will provide help for the injured, re-establish traffic flow, gather all the necessary information about the accident and they will take note of evidences and statements from the parties to draw up a report. In case of damages, the report will acquire particular importance to the parties, since they are entitled to request a copy of it as an evidence of their claims. Please notice, that, when injuries have occurred, the report will be released only after the 90 days necessary for the submission of a potential lawsuit for personal injury.

If the authorities find a breach of the Highway Code has been realized, a fine will be established as a consequence of the road accident. Anyhow, they are allowed to seize the vehicle for further more detailed reports, as it is for the case of a suspect criminal action, for example driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

The Italian authorities may order a compulsory medical examination. Whether there are deaths or serious injuries, authorities may request a suspension of the driving license. Moreover, in the particular case of a fatal accident, a judicial investigation will start to ascertain the cause of the death and the involvement a medical forensic will be necessary in order to carry out an autopsy. In this event, the nearest kin will be called to identify the body.

If only material damages occurred, and there was no police intervention, then the parties involved, as of 2004,  may revert to an “amicable procedure” (Constatazione Amichevole d’Incidente) and fill in the blue document (modulo blu) of the Convention for Direct Indemnity (CID, Convenzione Indennizzo Diretto). This document is provided by the insurance company and should be kept in the car.

Included in the accident report are the following details:

  • Name of the parties involved
  • Details of the insurance companies
  • Registration plates of the vehicles involved
  • Circumstances and description of the accident
  • Signature of both drivers

Even though for accident with no serious injuries – and especially if both drivers agree on the facts – there is no obligation to contact the police, following the suggestion above and complete the accident report will help the insurance company in collecting the necessary information and lawyers in case of an eventual subsequent claim.

A copy of the accident report must be sent to the insurance company within 3 days, and the car must be kept at their disposal for an expert’s report. The insurance company then has 10 days to assess the damages, and must pay within 15 days. If there is no agreement on the estimation of the damages of the car, usually the insurance company will offer to pay a provision based on an esteem; the difference can be claimed later on.

Please notice, that according to the Italian Civil Code – articles 2043 and 2054 – any individual causing a damage has the duty to make it good and restore the victim, putting him back in the position he would have found himself if the damage had not occurred at all. Therefore, drivers are obliged to compensate any harm to person and/or properties caused by the use of the vehicle.

In the event of a road accident involving two or more vehicles, Italian law presumes, until proven otherwise, a contributory negligence, i.e. all drivers have contributed equally to produce the collision. It is important to keep in mind that in Italy the owner of a vehicle is jointly liable with the driver, unless proved that the last one had used the vehicle against the owner’s will. Anyhow, the owner will always be the one responsible for damage resulting from construction defects or failure to maintain his own vehicle.

To quantify the amount of damage, it is important to know that the Italian Civil Code identifies a distinction between patrimonial damages and non-patrimonial damages:

  • Patrimonial damages relate to a loss in the economic assets of the injured party directly. They can refer to “consequential damages” as immediate and direct consequence of the damage, which caused the economic loss (medical expenses, loss for victim’s goods, etc.) or to “monetary loss”, that is the reduction in incomes suffered or that will take place in the future caused by the injury to be compensated.
  • Non-patrimonial damages occur when an intentional or negligent act causes a personal injury. They are classified as “biological damages” relate to physical, mental and social damages and as “moral damages” consisting of the moral harm, anxiety, distress and offence to a person’s general well-being.

In Italy, it is mandatory for vehicles to be insured by authorized insurance companies. That means the most of the damages have a fair compensation, but many times the compensation released may not satisfy fully the damage, so claims before a court are likely to rise.

The Italian courts have developed, through their rulings a personal injury compensation system to ensure a greater protection of victims, expanding the principle of duty of care of individuals’ health, as well as the rage of recoverable damages. Due to the contributions of courts, Italian jurisprudence has now developed a systematised approach – with margin of discretion – for the assessment of personal injury awards, based on two different kinds of scales: the medical scales for the assessment of the percentage points of permanent invalidity; and the judicial scales indicating the monetary value for each percentage point. However, marked differences on quantum still exist within the country, meaning that it can occur that the evaluation of level of damages awards will change depending on the geographical location of the claim.

Only the Italian lawyers can represent the injured in the negotiation with the offender or its insurance. For this reason, we suggest to contact directly an English speaking Italian lawyer, based in Italy.

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