Liability and Accountability

Research Leader: Britt Weyts

Presentation

The externally endowed University of Antwerp Liability Law and Insurance Chair is the hub for our research in this line. Furthermore, a faculty-wide post-doc project 2014-2016 was allocated to this line.

Liability & insurance law are increasingly important in private law. Firstly, the evolution towards a more technological society has created a growing number of risks. Secondly, there seems to exist a growing claim-awareness within an increasingly larger group of society that is unwilling to bear its own damage. Many victims demand or expect to be able to establish the liability of another person, company or institution. Thirdly, legal aid insurance and liability insurance have become more widespread, which influences the aim to allocate liability to an insured person or entity. Finally, as liability and insurance are not able to compensate all damages, the question arises whether compensation is or should be provided by compensation funds. 

Debates

Against that background, the objectives of this line are the following.

Our first aim is to examine the various types of liabilities and accountability for these liabilities. We focus on the functions of liability and on the prevention of damage. Particular attention will be had for 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 liabilities and insurance, as the majority of claims against private persons and enterprises in reality are directed 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 held to cover all kinds of risks. This question is related to our line Contractualisation, in that we shall determine 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 help overcoming 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.

Specific Research Topics

1. Research into various forms of liability.

1.1. What interplay exists between product safety and product recall and the rules concerning product liability?

1.2. In the field of medical liability

1.2.1. How can we reconcile the private autonomy of the participants, general ethical considerations and the limitation of medical liability with regard to clinical trials (PhD trajectory 1) and with regard to organ transplants (PhD trajectory 2)?

1.2.2. Which is the interplay between medical ethics and discipline on the one hand and medical (criminal and civil) liability on the other hand? How should medical ethics function as a way to prevent and repress medical faults?

1.3. Can exceptional breach of the equality before public burdens justify a risk-based liability (without fault) in administrative law?

1.4. In which way does acquisitive liability, by offering a possibility to acquire a property right, immunize the beneficiary from his property law liability based on the occupation of another persons good?

2. Research into insurance law

2.1. Which balance may be found between contractual freedom and State regulation of the insurance market, particularly in light of the need for transparency in insurance contracts from a consumer law perspective?

2.2. What can we learn from a civilology (legal sociology and legal psychology) approach towards the best balance between protection of the insured and the prevention of reckless behaviour?

2.3. Which are the limits of ADR in the insurance market?

2.4. How to efficiently and effectively prevent and repress insurance fraud?

3. Research into compensation Funds

3.1. How to define the concept of “abnormal damages” in the 2010 Act on Medical Accidents, which aims to compensate damage on a no-fault basis?

3.2. How can we apply alternative compensation schemes to damage suffered in the context of organ transplants, medical trials and other specific medical services.

3.3. Which principles underlie the different public and private compensation Funds?

3.4. Which is the interplay between liability, insurance and other compensation mechanisms?