In cases of accidents it is often quite difficult to know if the victim is entitled to compensation and in most situations it is impossible to automatically determine the responsibilities of the different parties involved without the intervention of a judge.
The objective responsibility
Nevertheless, in specific circumstances the Spanish law establishes an automatic right of compensation for the victims as the party causing the damage has an objective responsibility: “la responsabilidad objectiva”. Except for cases of “force majeure” these include: traffic accidents, plane crashes, hunting accidents, accidents created by defective products, nuclear accidents and accidents created by a substandard public service. This is why in Spain the law compels drivers, airline operators, hunters, manufactures and public administrations to have an insurance that will cover this type of compensation. In these cases the victim has only to prove that the damages are real and they derive from the accident.
Inherent risk and economical benefit
In situations where there is an inherent risk and there is an economical benefit for the party being accused, it is the person that provoked the accident that has to prove that he did all that was possible to minimize the dangers.
For example if at a kart track a teenager injures himself, it is the owner of the karting business (that created the risk and profited from the activity) that has to prove that he was strictly following all the security procedures.
The victim has to gather the evidence
For all other situations, in principle, the victim has to prove his accusations, both in cases of fault and negligence. Fault is when someone is acting in a way that provokes an accident and negligence is when someone does not act in order to prevent an accident.
For example: A worker is cleaning a public space without placing a warning sign about the wet floor, a person slips and breaks a leg. The victim will have to gather evidence and witnesses in order to support his accusations against the person who he believes is responsible for the accident.
Identifying the responsible party is difficult
In general we have to keep in mind the following:
- Often the accused party and the victim share responsibility of different percentages. There is no clear responsibility.
- A person is not only responsible of his acts but as well of the people he is in charge of. For example the parents are responsible for the conduct of their children.
- If an accident happens due to the negligence of a company contracted by a client, it is the company who is responsible and not the client.
- There are cases of “force majeure” (for example natural catastrophes) where there are no responsible parties.
- The public administration can be regarded as a responsible party the same as any juridical person.
What to do in case of accident
Even though at first glance the damage is minor, always collect every piece of evidence possible. It might be useful later if you realise that there are further problems. In case of injuries (even minor), go to the accident and emergency department of the local hospital and get a medical assessment. You might need it later as evidence. Get the details of the witnesses of the accident; you might need to contact them later. If the accident happens in a business premises, use the complaints form “hoja de reclamaciones” and save your copy.
Ask your Spanish lawyer
In order to get compensation it is very important to ask for the opinion of your Spanish lawyer as failing to correctly evaluate the situation can jeopardize the process. Your lawyer will be able to estimate what is fair compensation and what is the best legal route to pursue, and where possible they will also be able to mediate with the other parties and the insurance companies in order to negotiate an amicable settlement outside court.