A very disappointing experience in Franc e, has left me thinking what’s the point? At the beginning of October, I was in my kitchen when a lorry hit my boundary wall causing damage on corner. I took photos and we exchanged numbers, there were also two witnesses. On advice of neighbours, I reported to gendarmes. Five weeks later, no news and am told he’s waiting for me to claim on my insurance. I explained that at this time my insurance had lapsed as I was shopping around for a more competitive policy, in any case I am not under obligation to claim on my insurance. I am by this time back in UK settling down for Christmas. I write to municipal police asking if they could supply insurance details of this lorry, no reply and I write again. I then receive a letter from municipal police to say that they cannot comment on wall as it has gone to the PROSECUTOR for judgement. There is no letter sent to my house about this, no mention of offending lorry. I write to the Mayor no reply. The wall has been standing for two and a half years and planning permission was fully applied for and granted. according to the cadastral plan the wall is on my land. I have been worried sick as the the wall was over 10k, can they really get away with this any advice welcome.
Did you actually make a complaint to the gendarmes or just tell them? Who does the lorry belong to? Is this your house insurance? If you weren’t insured that may be a problem.
Well, I thought I was making a complaint but not having done before maybe not. They called the owner who wrote to me the next day saying he would pay, I sent a devis he asked my insurance to claim against him. It shouldn’t be an issue with my insurance not being valid he still has to just make a claim…that can be followed through…but it’s just how suddenly my wall is at the Prosecutors.
May I suggest that you send a letter (Recommandee avec Avis de Reception) making a formal claim against the vehicle owner for the amount that it will cost to repair the wall. Make the claim against the vehicle owner personally, and then he can decide if he wants to pay from his own pocket or refer the matter to his insurers. Make a specific requirement that the vehicle owner reply to you within 30 days of receiving your letter, and categorically state that if he fails to do so, that you will have no option other than to invoke legal recourse.
Keep a copy of the letter you send, together with proof of posting and the acknowledgement of delivery that you will receive back from La Poste.
These documents will be essential if you need to take the matter further through legal process.
Finally, make sure that ALL correspondence with the vehicle owner, or his insurers, is done in writing, and do not rely on phone calls or e-mails. Basically you have to remember that in France, if it isn’t in writing sent Recommandee avec Avis de Reception, then it simply never happened. So every letter that you send, regardless of to whom, in relation to this matter should be sent Recommandee as above.
In general, you need to be direct, assertive, and within reason, patient. Eventually you will prevail, but it will take time.
Thank you so much Robert for your reply. I am however back in UK for a while so will need to post from here, I do not have his address, just photo of registration plate and company. I have written admission from him that it his fault and he is a managing director of very prominent company. I have already stated to him that I will need to start legal action against him if payment is not made. The problem is much bigger though, when I threatened with legal action the next day a case has been made against me for my wall being in wrong place and height, coincidence yes? I have all permission for this, it is going to caught in my absence and could be demolished it cost over 10k. At an outside guess, I would say this business owner has influence and perhaps his driver had no insurance, or he just didn’t like b being threatened.
Sorry that should read court!
Considering the time constraint you mention Suzan. I think you need to engage the legal services for yourself and quickly, they can slow down any action and put forward your case in a way the French legal system operates.
Do you now have valid insurance? As if not then they may not be prepared to act on your behalf if you are not a client. And did you include the jurisprudence option? If so, call on them to help.
It might be worth it for you to come to France for a while to sort this out. Who actually has taken out a process against you? And for what? As could be worth talking to Marie to unpick this, letters and emails are unlikely to get much of a result. And may need to get a géomètre to confirm the walk was on your land in the correct position if that is the complaint.
Are you 100% sure wall was in the right place at the right height? Check your planning permission carefully, sometimes an error can be with the builders. As rather than coincidence it could be that you sending in a complaint has just alerted people to look at the wall and think that something is not right.
Sounds like a nightmare
To be fair it would have been a lot easier had you been able to claim on your buildings insurance.
First off are you sure it has “lapsed” - my understanding is that it is rather difficult to cancel insurance policies in France without formal letters and specific periods of notice - they don’t “lapse” in the same way as in the UK.
Second, make sure all correspondence is recommandée with accusé de réception - La Poste offer an online service for letters - you edit a document online, or upload a pre-formatted document and they print it, stick it in an envelope then put it through the postal system for you. It’s a bit cheaper and a good few days faster han sending International Tracked & Signed from the UK.
That is interesting to know.
It came up in my rant about general apathy of French companies/services to email communications, thanks to @KarenLot, IIRC.
I used it just recently when SAUR were threatening to terminate service if I didn’t get back to them within a certain time-frame, it worked well.
You need a La Poste account, and can send via regular mail or recorded delivery.
Please seek legal advice from a French avocat specialising in civil liability, driving offenses and construction law.
The referral from the gendarmerie to the public prosecutor would usually be a penal liability case, made before the Tribunal Pénal, or Tribunal de Police, and third party civilians (i.e. those not accused of the delict) are not normally party to the case, they have to "constitute themselves, via their attorney, as “Partie Civile”. In other words, they are not usually informed of the initiation, or the outcome, of the proceedings, as this depends entirely on the Public Prosecutor being convinced that there is a case to be made on which it thinks it can win.
The monetary claim regarding damage to the wall would generally be a civil liability case.
The claim against illegal construction or execution of the building permit for the wall would generally be an administrative tribunal matter, which may or may not involve both civil and penal liability.
It sounds to me that you really need professional advice to sort this one out.
Still no justification in law (UK at anyroads) for damaging property irrespective of it being constructed in the wrong place, wrong type etc, you have to petition the correct source to have action taken to remove (if neccesary) the object and it sounds as if Suzan took the correct steps before constructing the wall.
On a more general note, people, and even more so those who come from other legal cultures, often fail to realise that what might be the “done thing” in one country is either totally ineffective, or sometimes even downright prejudicial, to their own case, especially when considering an evidentiary chain, and the behaviour of one or more of the parties. There is no generally accepted form of “morality”, even within the European Union, as the struggle of the EUCJ to define one in various fields of law will attest. Whilst I happen to work and understand the general operations of civil and penal court proceedings for my field of law, and some of what goes on in courts of other EU countries with which I’ve been involved as part of the litigation team, we always take local counsel on board, as they are best placed to hammer out and explain the fineries of any given legal situation.
Oh, a further thought about the La Poste service - it looks as though it keeps a copy in your “espace client” of the *contents* of the letter that you sent, I would imagine that would be much better than a regular recommandée - if someone wanted to be awkward they couldn’t claim you hadn’t corresponded but could dispute the contents and no copy that you kept would prove that you hadn’t put somethng different in the envelope.
I can’t imagine that any French authority would argue against proof of contents provided by La Poste.
Without knowing the exact details, I can imagine that the counterclaim goes something along the lines that:
“as the wall was improperly built and extended beyond the boundary, it was therefore not only in breach of regulation x, y, z, but also created an objective danger obscuring the view of the driver, and therefore any incident involving said wall was entirely down to the responsibility of the owner of the construction rather than that of the vehicle driver proceeding about his business in a responsible manner”.
It doesn’t matter whether that picture of events is true or not. The fact is that this is a classic way of counter-arguing, and will force the issue back on the proprietor of the wall, who will be forced to seek some kind of legal representation or else face losing their case completely. Obfuscation and delaying or diversionary tactics are a classic in French law, providing that you think you can get away with it.
Addendum : I would add that this is why people leave it to their insurers to take up the mantle.
Dealing with 2 wall strikes at work at the moment, both from articulated lorries on the same point of the wall. Insurers playing hardball right now and fortunately Westminster council who allowed the wall to be built over 11 years ago are being helpful.
We are applying for a ban on articulated lorries via this tight turn as the drivers may not realise its difficult for some to make the turn. Sorry side issue but shows how the vehicle owners and insurers try to shirk responsibilities
It does indeed. For 12 months I think? So you have the contents of your letter and the record of who signed for delivery. About as bullet proof as you can get I should think.
Thank you Rice pudding, I think you have it in a nutshell…the wall however is a long way from the corner where he turned. I also bought it to attention of Marie two weeks earlier that this was a narrow lane and increasingly larger lorries were trying to turn and I was worried about danger to house and situated on corner…but what to do im unsure? they have not written to me will not talk to me and do not reply to emails,