Protection of visitors for Swiss victims abroad and foreign victims in Switzerland

The following two protection of visitors systems are in use in Switzerland:

  • The system of private-law bilateral protection of visitors agreements, applicable for matters between Switzerland and the EEA
  • The Protection of Visitors Agreement concluded by the Council of Bureaux (CoB), made up of two parts: the Basic Agreement and the Optional Agreement
The agreements between the NBI and its European partner organisations

In order to ensure that road traffic accident victims can still benefit from the most important provisions on the protection of visitors despite the fact that Directive 2000/26/EC is not directly applicable between Switzerland and the EEA, the NBI, using the powers conferred upon it by Art. 76b, para. 5b of the SVG, concluded protection of visitors agreements under private law with all of the relevant establishments in the EEA member states.

In full conformity with the provisions of Directive 2000/26/EC, the agreements foresee that insurers nominate claims representatives in each of the other signatory countries to deal with claims filed by injured parties. The agreements also stipulate that the information centres in the signatory countries must provide the parties involved with the information needed for them to be able to file their claims. However, all of the agreements expressly exclude access to the compensation bodies.

The following agreements have been in force:

In force since: Country:
01.10.2003 Austria, Germany
01.01.2004 Belgium, Spain, Netherlands
01.05.2004 Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia
15.10.2004 Greece
01.01.2005 France
01.01.2006 Great Britain
30.03.2007 Malta
17.08.2007 Rumania
25.09.2007 Cyprus
01.01.2010 Italy
The Protection of Visitors Agreement concluded by the Council of Bureaux (CoB)

Injured parties resident in countries outside the EEA are not protected by these provisions. This is why the Council of Bureaux (CoB), the umbrella organisation for the insurance bureaux in the Green Card System, took a keen interest in addressing this issue. In fact, the Green Card System, which extends beyond the EEA, supports injured parties with claims settlement in the country where the accident took place if the accident was caused by a foreign vehicle. However, it does not provide any protection for injured parties who suffer an accident abroad. It was against this background that the CoB set up a working group in 2011. Its mandate was to look into the question of whether – and if so, how – a system comparable to the protection of visitors system implemented by Directive 2000/26/EC could be introduced as a complement to the Green Card System.

The working group was chaired by the Swiss National Bureau of Insurance. The CoB took this decision in the hope of being able to take advantage of the NBI's experience. In fact, between 2003 and 2010, the NBI concluded private-law agreements with all of its partner organisations in the EEA, in which it was agreed that the most important provisions of Directive 2000/26/EC would be applied reciprocally for injured parties from Switzerland and from the EEA countries. After carrying out a survey of the insurance bureaux and an in-depth analysis of the legal situation, the working group drew up an agreement which was adopted by the CoB at its annual general meeting on 31 May 2012.

The CoB's Protection of Visitors Agreement is made up of two parts: the Basic Agreement and the Optional Agreement. In order to become applicable between two countries, the agreement must be signed by the insurance bureaux of both countries. For obvious reasons, an agreement cannot be signed between EEA member states: for these countries, the more substantial provisions for the protection of visitors laid down in Directive 2000/26/EC apply amongst them.

The goal of the Basic Agreement is to assist injured parties with identifying the responsible motor vehicle liability insurer following a road traffic accident and with obtaining further information. The agreement should ensure that claims are settled as quickly and in as uncomplicated a manner as possible, to the benefit of the injured party. The process is set in motion when an injured party requests information from the insurance bureau in his/her country of residence. After receiving the request, this insurance bureau gets in contact either with the insurance bureau in the country in which the vehicle that caused the accident was registered, or with the insurance bureau in the country in which the accident took place, in order to obtain and pass on to the injured party the following information:

  • Identity of the company providing liability insurance for the vehicle involved in the accident

  • Identity of the driver, owner or keeper of the vehicle involved in the accident if the insurer cannot be identified within six weeks of the accident

  • Police report

  • Information on possible payments by a guarantee fund or other information that may be useful for settling the claim

The objective of the NBI is to sign this Agreement with all relevant bodies within the EEA and with all non-EEA states. Until this Agreement is signed, the former protection of visitors systems continue to apply (i.e. the protection of visitors under the European Motor Insurance Directive, consolidated in Directive 2009/103/EC, applicable throughout the EEA) and the NBI system of private-law bilateral protection of visitors agreements applicable between Switzerland and the EEA. In principle, the provisions of the Basic Agreement apply to all claims that arise following its entry into force, unless it has been expressly agreed that the Agreement will also apply retroactively.

The NBI has signed Basic Agreements with the insurance bureaux of the following states:

  • 09.05.2014: Morroco, Turkey, Ukraine

  • 01.01.2016: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia, Tunisia, Belarus

  • 01.07.2016: Andorra

If the insurance bureaux of two countries have signed the Optional Agreement, the insurance companies in those countries are entitled to nominate claims representatives in the other country. These claims representatives are authorised to settle the claims of injured parties, subject to the following conditions:

  • The injured party's place of residence is in the same country as the claims representative.

  • The accident took place either in the country in which the responsible insurer is based, or in another country within the Green Card System provided this country is not also the injured party's country of residence.

The claim is processed in accordance with the applicable law. Unconditional acceptance or final settlement requires the agreement of the responsible insurer. The insurer can withdraw the claim from the claims representative it nominated at any time. However, it may not misuse this right in order to reduce the injured party's justified claims. If a claims representative has not been nominated, this role can be performed by the insurance bureau in the injured party's country of residence, provided the insurer responsible gives its consent. The insurer can also withdraw the claim from the insurance bureau at any time. The agreement does not provide for sanctions on the insurer or the claims representative in the event that the injured party does not receive a reasoned reply to a filed claim. The agreement also does not make it obligatory to pay default interest or provide for the possibility of withdrawal of the claim in the event of default. However, it does make it obligatory for the insurance bureaux to report to each other regarding claims that are not processed according to the usual process.

Insurance bureaux that accede to the Optional Agreement are obliged to draw up a list of their member companies and claims representatives nominated in other countries. They are also obliged to provide the CoB with a copy of this list, which must be continuously updated, for publication on its internet site.

As per today, the NBI has signed the Optional Agreement of the CoB's Protection of Visitors Agreement with the following EEA bureaux:

  • 01.09.2016: Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Iceland, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Slovenia 

The relationship with all other EEA insurance bureaux continues to be based on the existing bilateral protection of visitors agreements. For the time being, the aim is to conclude the Optional Agreement with all EEA insurance bureaux. Within the framework of the concluded protection of visitors agreements, NBI members are obliged to nominate a claims representative (CR) in each EEA member state (resolution passed at the 2013 general meeting in Nyon). This obligation also arises from the fact that the majority of Swiss insurers sell motor liability policies in Liechtenstein. As an EEA country, Liechtenstein must fully implement and comply with the provisions of the protection of visitors Directive and also therefore ensure, among other things, that each motor liability insurer of vehicles registered in Liechtenstein has nominated a CR in each EEA member state. If not, in the event of a claim by a Liechtenstein applicant involving compensation bodies and relating to Liechtenstein, the NGF, which also acts as the compensation body for Liechtenstein, shall lose its authority to settle claims.