Italy: no compensation for the passengers?

Bad news arrives for those traveling on a car involved in a road accident in Italy without fault of its driver: in these cases, the passenger is not entitled to compensation for damage by the insurance of the vehicle on which he was located. This was confirmed in a new sentence of the Justice of the Peace of Taranto [1] rejecting the passenger's request.

In the decided case, the injured person was on board a car that was hit by another vehicle, coming from the opposite direction, whose driver had made a risky overtaking, losing control of the vehicle. In the impact, this passenger had suffered personal injuries and had requested compensation for damages from the insurance of the vehicle he was traveling on.

But the judge from Taranto declared that the request is inadmissible, referring to a sentence of the Cassation Court [2] according to which the compensation obligation is excluded when the insurance manages to demonstrate the existence of a "fortuitous event" and therefore its extraneousness to the event from which the damage resulted. 

According to the respective law article [3], not only unpredictable natural events, but also human conduct is considered as an unforeseen event, such as the full and exclusive responsibility of the other vehicle involved in the collision. In these cases, there is no right for compensation for the passenger.

If instead there had been a co-responsibility of the drivers of the two vehicles involved, then the insurance of the carrier would have to pay damages, since the same regulatory provision provides that the company responds regardless of the liability share of the drivers.

Unfortunately, this restrictive literal reading of the law leads to an unreasonable disadvantage for the passenger, especially for passengers injured in a foreign car, since they cannot get direct compensation from their domestic insurer, when Italian law is applied. Therefore, a systematic interpretation of the law would be preferable, considering that a car owner should be regarded responsible for any damage suffered by his passengers based on the machine risk he bears.

Notes:

[1] Giudice di pace di Taranto, sent. n. 905/2020 del 11 giugno 2020.

[2] Cass. sez. III, sent. n. 4147/19 del 13 febbraio 2019.

[3] Art. 141 D.Lgs. 7 settembre 2005, n.209 (Codice delle assicurazioni private).