Liability and Insurance
Leadership, management style and communication
The programme is led by two programme leaders, Willem van Boom (Erasmus University Rotterdam) and Ivo Giesen (Utrecht University), who took over from Michael Faure and Ton Hartlief in 2008. They are responsible for coordinating the activities that take place within the programme. They maintain contact with the other programme leaders. In theory, there is one programme leader from each member institution. They are Arno Akkermans for the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Herman Cousy for the Catholic University of Leuven, Gerrit van Maanen (Maastricht University) and Ivo Giesen (Utrecht University).
Regular email correspondence takes place between the coordinators and the other programme leaders to consult on activities, such as joint conferences or to organize workshops at the annual Ius Commune conference.
In addition, regular workshops take place in which a large number of the programme's researchers participate. All researchers in the programme meet at least once a year during the annual Ius Commune conference. There is also cooperation in the context of many research projects, in the framework of which workshops are organized.
a. Original issue definition and objectives
The collective research that takes place within this research programme concentrates on identifying the foundations of liability and insurance. With respect to its methodology, the group can be characterized by its a focus on research into positive law and fundamental research on the one hand, and comparative and multidisciplinary research on the other. The positive law and fundamental research concentrates more on issues relating to the objective of liability and insurance and the relationship between liability and insurance. A central issue within this research concerns, for instance, the extent to which expanding liability influences the insurability of certain risks. Conversely, it is also questioned to what extent insurability should be a criterion for defining the boundaries of liability. To address that question, research is conducted into positive law, paying attention to developments in liability law in the Netherlands, also in the light of foreign developments and developments in Europe. Additionally, critical reflection on the role of liability law as a compensatory mechanism takes place, also in light of alternative compensation systems (liability insurance, direct insurance, social security, compensation funds).
The comparative research has the objective, among others, to attempt to discover the foundations of liability law in Europe. In the pursuit of this objective, researchers participate in various European bodies that have similar goals. For instance, some members participate in the European Group on Tort Law, the European Civil Code project and the Case Books project. The multidisciplinary approach involves cooperation with law and economics scholars and insurance economists. The underlying idea is that a solid understanding of the insurability of liability can only be obtained through by involving law and economics in the analysis.
Regular meetings take place between researchers, and various symposiums are organized both internally and externally to discuss and present research outcomes.
The research group also aims to obtain external funding, in particular from government funding organizations (so-called tweede geldstroom), but also in part from other funding organizations (so-called derde geldstroom). In relation to the latter, the aim of the research group is that research funded by other non-governmental organizations should support the programme's fundamental scholarly research. A condition is always that research results, also when they stem from externally funding research projects, should be of such quality that they can be published. The research group participates in a large number of projects funded by governmental and non-governmental organizations.
The research group intends to continue carrying out its research programme together with the partners from the Research School. This means in particular that attention will continue to be given to organizing conferences, joint publications, and the publication of research in peer reviewed journals. Attempts will continue to be made to acquire subsidies from governmental and other funding organizations.
The social relevance of the research that takes place within this research programme hardly needs elaboration. The research group concerns itself with law and economics (multidisciplinary) and comparative research which, in accordance with the central issue of the programme, looks into the role of liability law and insurance in preventing accidents and how victims of accidents can be optimally compensated. Through this comparative research it is possible to discover whether common foundations of liability law exist in Europe. At the same time, research is conducted to determine whether expanding liability endangers insurability and whether it is necessary to look for alternative mechanisms to provide victims of accidents with compensation. These issues, also in light of some recent tragic incidents, are certainly socially relevant.
With respect to the research group's reputation, it is possible to refer in the first place to the group's ability to acquire subsidies from governmental and other funding organizations. The research group has shown itself to be capable of attracting some large projects (from SaRO and ZonMw). In addition, the research group has also been able to acquire funding from international organizations (among others from the European Commission and the OECD), which can seen as an indication of reputation.
b. Programme Revision
Whereas the original programme primarily placed the emphasis on the classical liability law and insurance, the programme has now been brought up-to-date and the methodological approach has been adapted so that a slight substantive change can be observed:
It is clear that cooperation with medical practitioners and in particular research into medical expertise is also necessary. Attention is increasingly given to the role of experts for the evaluation of liability and insurance. This was already investigated by many members of the research group in the context of issues of causation, but now attention is also given in a wider context to (medical) expertise.
It will be clear from the programme structure described above that the researchers in the Liability and Insurance programme aim through research into positive law and fundamental research as well as through comparative and multidisciplinary research to identify the foundations of liability and insurance. In part, the research aims to gain insight into the role of instruments such as liability and insurance in the prevention of different types of accidents; in addition, specific attention is also given to the distinct role of liability and insurance as a compensation mechanism next to other compensatory mechanisms such as social security and compensation funds. In part, the group's research aims to gain insight in the differences in liability and insurance law in various European legal systems; and finally the research group aims to gain insight in the extent to which harmonization, or at least an alignment, of liability law is developing in Europe and to what extent can that be qualified as desirable.
Relation to the Research School
It is possible to show a substantive as well as a practical relation between this programme and the Ius Commune Research School. On a practical level, the lines of communication with the academic leadership of the Ius Commune Research School are obviously very direct considering that one of the coordinators of the Liability and Insurance programme is also the academic director of the Ius Commune research school. This guarantees an easy and smooth flow of information from the academic leadership of the Ius Commune Research School to the programme and vice versa.
On a substantive level, it should be clear that this programme, as it has been described in the programme structure, contributes to central issue defined by the Ius Commune Research School. After all, a central issue for the Research School concerns the role of law in international integration processes. It is precisely this question that is investigated in this programme, in the specific field of liability law, and in relation to that, the availability of insurance coverage. That fundamental Ius Commune issue is not only explored through traditional comparative law, however, (among other things due to the need to critically study the need for harmonization) fundamental research is also conducted into the foundations of liability law, also in relation to other instruments that can be used in parallel with liability law to compensate victims.
Many researchers in the research group participate in international groups. Among these it is possible for instance to point to participation of members of the research group in the European Group on Tort Law. Cooperation also takes place in other groups such as the Trento Group (in particular Prof. Giesen is the Dutch national reporter on personal injury compensation). The publication lists also reveal that many members of the research group publish in multidisciplinary and international journals with a peer review system. In addition, many members of the research group (particularly research leaders) are members of the editorial committees of journals and are repeatedly asked to carry out contract research, either by the government (for instance the Dutch Ministry of Justice), or for related social organizations (such as the Association of Insurers or the Council for Public Health and Health Care). This can be regarded as an indicator of the programme's reputation.
Effects of cooperation
The cooperation within the programme has de facto resulted in many projects, joint books, as well as conferences that without the cooperation within the framework of the Ius Commune Research School would not have come about. A joint book is published nearly every year and cooperation in the framework of first the SaRO project, and subsequently the Shifts in Governance project financed by the NOW, make it clear that as a consequence of this cooperation, research has been generated that has also led to research ties with others. For instance, both aforementioned projects (SaRO and Shifts in Governance both financed by the NOW) were carried out in cooperation with Tilburg University. Cooperation with the European Group on Tort Law and the European Centre of Tort and Insurance Law (in Vienna) is also mentioned again.