Report No. 85
Swedish Act of 1916 as to motor vehicles.- But the Swedish law of general tort liability does not govern injuries suffered in a road accident. Statutory liability1 for road accidents was based on two main principles:-
(i) rebuttable presumption of fault, and
(ii) liability of the owner of a car for the presumed fault of the driver.
As to the first principle, reference may be made to an important Swedish piece of legislation. This legislation imposed a liability2 upon any person using or allowing a motor vehicle to be used for traffic on public roads unless he proved that the injured person himself had contributed towards the injury, or it appeared from the circumstances that the injury could not been averted by using all the attention and care required on the part of the driver3.
The burden of proof was thus imposed upon the owner or user to show that a negligent act has not been committed. This statutory rule which imposes liability on the holder of the automobile unless he can prove absence of negligence in operating the vehicle and keeping it in good order, differs from the Anglo-American use of the maxim res ipsa loquitur, in so far as the reversal of the burden of proof applies lo all cases covered by the statute, not only to those where the conditions necessary for the application of the maxim are present.
The second principle (vicarious liability) is nothing peculiar and need not be discussed. Subject to these special rules, the general doctrine of fault continued to govern liability in Sweden for road accidents upto 1975. A certain hesitance to abandon the tort system was expressed, noting that these systems granted compensation to the great majority of injured persons, and that they had been built into the practices of courts and of insurance companies4. This position continued upto 1975.
1. The Motorists Liability Act, 1916 (Sweden).
2. In Denmark the stricter liability rule was introduced in 1903. Liability to insure was introduced in Denmark in 1918; in Sweden in 1929 (The Traffic Insurance Act, 1929).
3. Gomard Compensation for Automobile Accidents, (1970) 18 AJCL 80, 83.
4. Gomard Compensation for Automobile Accidents, (1970) 18 AJCL 80, 84.