Liability and Accountability

Research Leader: Britt Weyts

Overview

The externally endowed University of Antwerp Liability Law and Insurance Chair is the hub for our research under this line.

Liability & insurance law are increasingly important in private law. Firstly, there is a growing amount of risk caused by the increasing permeation of technology in society. Secondly, there is growing trend of claim-awareness within various societal groups that are unwilling to bear their own damage. Many victims now demand or expect to be able to establish the liability of another person, company or institution. Thirdly, there is greater availability of legal aid insurance and liability insurance, which influences the aim to allocate liability to an insured person or entity. Finally, as liability and insurance cannot compensate for all damage, compensation could be provided by compensation funds or by the government.

Debates

Our first aim is to examine the various types of liabilities and the accountability for these liabilities. We focus on the functions of liability and on the prevention of damage. Particular attention will be given to new risks that create new liabilities. 

Secondly, we will investigate the interplay between the various pillars of the compensation system, such as tort law, forms of insurance, social security and family law. We will particularly focus on the interaction between liability and insurance, as the majority of claims against private persons and businesses are directed in practice towards insurance companies. This trend is closely connected with the current debate on the deterrent effect of liability rules. 

We thirdly seek to determine the boundaries of insurance coverage, in particular whether insurers can be bound to cover all kinds of risks. This question is related to our Contractualisation research line, in that we will determine the limitations of contractual freedom and State regulation of the insurance market. 

Last, but not least, our faculty-wide research on compensation by (public or private) funds investigates whether the creation of such funds is in line with an existing need and whether funds can help to overcome the limitations of liability law and insurance. The Fund for Medical Accidents is just one example and connects this line with our research into Personality Rights. The ultimate goal is to map the various funds that exist for various kinds of damages and to develop general principles. Our more fundamental research question concerns the interplay of funds with liability law and different systems of insurance or risk allocation. We will also pay attention to the role of the government in providing compensation for damages.

Specific Research Topics

Liability law is constantly evolving, presenting new grounds for liability in legislation and case law. The need to address climate change also imposes new requirements on government and businesses. In addition, new heads of damage have been approved, for example within the field of moral damage. The rule of full compensation is being refined in new case law on predetermination and vetoes. To get around challenges posed by the causal link, there is increasing application of the theory of the loss of a chance. This expansion of liability puts more pressure on insurers and the government. Insurers are not only expected to provide global coverage and be sufficiently transparent, but also to comply with all kinds of rules of professional conduct. The government is expected to cover damage, for example through funds, when other compensation sources (such as liability, insurance and social security) do not sufficiently cover the damage.

  1. How should the rule of full compensation be developed and applied, taking into account new categories of damage? 
  2. How broadly should the concept of moral damage be interpreted? 
  3. What is the role and scope of predestination in liability law? 
  4. How should the theory of the loss of chance be applied? 
  5. How should the full compensation rule be applied in cases of property damage? 
  6. What is the interplay between liability, insurance and other compensation mechanisms? 
  7. What role do compensation schemes play in the settlement of claims? 
  8. Which principles underpin the different public and private compensation Funds? 
  9. What can be expected from the government and insurers regarding the damage caused by climate change?