What is a carriage agreement in Polish law? What are the types of carriage agreements?

A carriage agreement, colloquially known as a transport contract, is one of the legal institutions outlined in Book Three of the Obligations of the Civil Code of April 23, 1964 (Journal of Law of 1964, No. 16, item 93). There are generally two types of carriage agreements.

  1. Passenger Carriage Agreement– The essential element of this category of agreement is the carrier’s obligation to provide passengers with appropriate transportation, safety, hygiene, and comfort deemed necessary for the type of transport ( Article 776 of the Civil Code). Claims arising from passenger carriage agreements expire one year from the date of the carriage, or if the carriage is not performed, from the date when the transport was supposed to take place ( Article 778 of the Civil Code).
  2. Goods Carriage Agreement– The carrier should be adequately informed, among other things, about the sender’s address for the shipment, the destination, the identification of the shipment, and the packaging method. The sender must provide all necessary documents according to customs, tax, or administrative regulations (Article 782 of the Civil Code). It is also worth mentioning that the carrier should promptly notify the recipient of the arrival of the shipment at the destination. As for claims from goods carriage agreements,  they expire one year from the date of delivery, and in case of total loss or delayed delivery, from the date when the shipment was supposed to be delivered.

The definition of carriage agreement according to Article 774 of the Civil Code is as follows: “By a carriage agreement, the carrier undertakes , in the scope of his business activity, to transport, for remuneration, persons or things”. The fundamental characteristic of the agreement is the carrier’s obligation to deliver goods or persons from one place to another.

EU Regulations on Carriage Agreements:

Parties entering into an agreement, being citizens of different EU member states, have the right to choose the applicable law ( Article 3 of Regulation (EC)No 593/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 June 2008 on the law applicable to contractual  obligations, also known as Rome I). This means that the agreement is subject to the law chosen by the parties. For example, a French citizen and Polish citizen can specify in their agreement that Polish law is applicable to their legal relationship.

Choice of law can be made expressly or inferred from the entirety of the contract provisions or circumstances of the case. Parties also have the option to choose the applicable law for the entire agreement or only for its part.

What is the applicable law in the absence of a choice by the parties for a cross-border agreement for the carriage of persons? If the parties in a cross-border agreement for the carriage of persons do not agree on which legal order should govern the intentions, the applicable law will be the law of the country where the passenger has their habitual residence (the place here a person usually stays and has the center of their life interests, based on factual circumstances rather than legal ones). For the law of the habitual residence of the traveler to apply, the journey’s origin or destination must be in the same country. If this condition is not met, the law of the country where the carrier has their habitual residence will apply. It is noteworthy that for the agreement for the carriage of persons, the parties can choose as the applicable law only the law of the country where: a) the passenger has their habitual residence or b) the carrier has their habitual residence or c) the main management body of the carrier is located or d) the place of departure or e) the destination (the place of the journey’s end).

What is the applicable law in the absence of a choice by the parties for a cross-border agreement for carriage of goods? If the parties in an  agreement for the carriage of goods originating from different EU member states do not specify which country’s legal norms will apply to the concluded agreement, the applicable law be the law of the country where the carrier has their habitual residence. However, this is on the condition that the same country is the place of receiving the goods for carriage or the place of delivery, or the habitual residence of the sender. If these conditions are not met, the law of the country where the agreed place of delivery is located will apply.

Regulations for non-EU countries regarding the carriage agreement. Parties to a carriage agreement can also be citizens of non-European Union countries, and companies with headquarters outside its territory. Which country’s law should apply to such agreements if the parties have not agreed on this matter between themselves? In such a situation, the interpretation of contractual provisions will primarily be governed by the law.

Application of contractual  provisions in such a situation will primarily rely on agreements or legal acts signed at the national level between the habitual residence or registered office of the contracting parties.

It is worth nothing that if one of the parties to the carriage agreement comes from a European Union member state (e.g.,Poland), when determining the applicable law for the interpretation of the agreement between the parties, one should also consider agreements or regulations related to civil law relations that the EU has signed with that non – EU country, not just, for example, Poland.

In answers cannot be found through these means, the recourse is to the Act of February 4, 2011-Private International Law (Journal of Laws No.80, item 432), which contains general provisions regarding cross-border matters and guidelines on what to do when the laws of one party’s country conflict with the laws of the other party’s country.

Legal form of the Carriage Agreement: A carriage agreement can be concluded in various forms, differing in the manner of making statements, place, or medium. Each form is binding for both parties, whether it was made remotely or at the office of one of the contracting parties. However, individuals seeking to safeguard their interests should insist on formalizing the agreement, as this will help identify both the parties and the content of the agreement. The most common choice is a written agreement or a documentary form, which could be, for example, email correspondence with a scan of the agreement, but signed by both parties!

Possibility of Holding Parties to the Agreement Accountable by a Foreign Country:

According to Regulation (EU) No 1215/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of December 12, 2012, a person residing in a Member State of the European Union can be used in another Member State in matters, including contractual issues (e.g. carriage), before the court of the place of performance of a particular obligation. If the place of performance is not determined in the carriage agreement, it will be the place in the Member State where services or were to be provided according to the agreement.

Summary: The carriage agreement between parties from EU member states is a fairly extensive subject regulated by legal acts issued by EU bodies. When drafting such an agreement, it is essential to pay attention to several critical issues, such as the transport conditions stated in the documents, provisions regarding the carrier and instructing party. It is also crucial to formalize the agreement appropriately to secure one’s interests. One of the pillars of our law firm is legal assistance and advice in the case of cross-border agreements, especially in areas such as carriage agreements. If you have a similar problem or need advice in this area, you have come to the right place. Call, write, get in touch with us!