The Czech Supreme Court, in collaboration with the Center for Traffic Research, has commissioned a new databank which provides information about case law on compensation for immaterial injury to persons’ life and health (i.e., pain, barriers to participation in a full and self-determined social life) and claims of immaterial damage by the survivors if a person close to them was killed.
The concept of damage for health injuries is based on full compensation of the immaterial harm suffered by the injured person (physical pain and mental / emotional distress) and on determining the amount of such compensation based on equity considerations. These also apply to the perpetrator’s obligation to provide compensation for the decreased ability to participate in social life (if the harm to health deprives the injured person of a better future). However, the Civil Code itself provides no guidance in the form of criteria which would help one to determine the amount of compensation for pain and suffering.
In all countries under the rule of law, the principle of predictable judgments holds true, according to which legal cases which are in major aspects identical must lead to similar decisions, and convincing reasons must be given for departing from this rule. This is why the Supreme Court, working with legal and medical experts, prepared a methodology back in 2014 for determining the compensation for immaterial damage within the meaning of Sec. 2958 of the Civil Code, and the general courts have been using this methodology as guidance in determining the amount of compensation to be paid in specific cases.
The newly launched database contains detailed information on court decisions which concerned claims for compensation for pain, reduced participation in social life, or the loss of a close person. At present, the decisions in this database date from the time when the “old” Civil Code was still in force, but decisions passed under the new rules are being added on an on-going basis.
The declared purpose of this database is to unify the jurisprudence in this area, and to promote the greater predictability of court decisions when determining the amount of immaterial damage. The database can be accessed for free by anyone, subject to prior registration as a user.
An interesting feature is the included “calculator”, which uses various input to determine the degree to which the injured person is prevented from participating in a full social life, in accordance with the rules set out in the Supreme Court’s above-mentioned methodology. However, the results produced by this calculator are of course only a first approximation.
In closing, we should add that compensation for pain and suffering is usually awarded in the form of a one-time payment. In exceptional cases, an additional amount may be awarded to reflect the reduced ability to participate in social life, if the condition of the injured person has worsened in the meantime.
Source: Sec. 2959 of the Civil Code (Act No. 89/2012 Coll., as amended); the databank can be found at www.datanu.cz; and the methodology of the Supreme Court for determining compensation for pain and suffering within the meaning of Sec. 2958 of the Civil Code is posted on the court’s website www.nsoud.cz and can be looked up using this link