Courts have discretion to award higher compensation for personal injury

13. 3. 2023

The Czech Republic is not well known for its courts awarding compensation for non-pecuniary damage (especially as a result of damage to health or death), which would significantly change the parties' financial conditions in the event of a successful litigation. Victims often do not know how much compensation they should claim and how realistic it is in practice to claim more compensation than set by the 2014 Supreme Court Methodology on compensation for non-pecuniary damage. The existence of the methodology is quite well known even among the general public. Less well known, however, will be its practical application in court decisions.

So, what does the ruling by the courts look like? Is it correct to assume that the amount of compensation will be decided by a methodology being applicable as a type of numerical formula or computer program?

The Supreme Court's case law on the application of the methodology stated that judges do not have to use it when determining the amount of monetary compensation for non-pecuniary damage, but if they do, they must follow the rules set out in the methodology. They may adjust the final amount according to the law and case-law, depending on the specific circumstances of the case.

With regards to the compensation for the impairment of social activities (i.e. in the case of permanent consequences of a personal injury), which is also regulated by the methodology, the court calculates the appropriate amount of compensation for non-pecuniary damage, which it may again adjust according to age, the intensity of involvement in social activities and other circumstances provided for by law, such as the intentional infliction of the injury, efforts to make it public, or the consequences of discrimination on the basis of disability.

In the context of litigation, the parties usually submit (or the court requests) expert opinions to quantify the non-pecuniary damage. However, their binding effect is limited. Although the court takes this amount into account, it is nevertheless obliged to look at it critically (i.e., it must not accept the content of the expert's report without reviewing it) and to determine the final amount itself. The primary task of the expert opinion is to determine the percentage of the person's limitation, not the final amount of compensation (although this is one of the factors which the court will take into account in its decision).

The Constitutional Court, however, has been critical of the methodology itself in its case law, finding the methodology problematic in the case of compensation for impairment of social employment and emphasizes the individual circumstances of the case in question, not the calculation according to the methodology itself.

Injured can therefore be advised not to be afraid to seek significantly higher compensation where circumstances warrant. This is precisely with reference to the development of the decision‑making practice (not only) of the Constitutional Court, which has concluded that human life and its quality cannot be fairly quantified according to complex tables, but must always be decided only by the competent court in an individual case.

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