New guidelines to help courts calculate bodily harm compensations

Photo: Filip Jandourek

The Czech Supreme Court has devised new guidelines for calculating settlements for bodily harm. The methodology, which comes in a reaction to rather vague provisions of the new Civil Code, should help unify court rulings on compensation for temporary and permanent injuries and similar issues. The new rules also raise the maximum amount of compensation for grave social impairment to 20 million crowns.

Helena Válková,  photo: archive of Czech Government
The new Czech Civil Code, which entered into force in January after years of preparation, cancelled existing rules for compensating bodily injuries. Instead, it only vaguely stipulates that such compensations should be calculated according to the “principles of decency”.

To avoid the risk that courts across the country would interpret this in very different ways, the Czech Supreme Court has come up with guidelines to help judges calculate compensations for temporary or permanent injuries, social impairment, damages for pain and suffering, and other issues. Justice Minister Helena Válková explains.

“Without these guidelines, we would have to expect different rulings from different courts, just because they would apply different criteria. That’s why experts – lawyers and doctors – devised these rules that minimize that risk of courts in Prague, for instance, granting a completely different compensation than courts in Olomouc.”

The guidelines were drafted by Supreme Court judges, doctors at the First Faculty of Medicine of Prague’s Charles University, and attorneys. The basic amount for calculating compensations has been set at 10,051,200 crowns, which represents 400 times the average monthly salary of “the average person of the average age”.

Photo: Filip Jandourek
The new methodology significantly raises compensations for injuries; for instance, a lost tooth should be compensated with 5,025 crowns instead of 2,400; 50,000 crowns should be paid for the loss of an eye, and 120,000 for a crushed skull.

The new methodology also introduces a new approach to compensating permanent social impairment. Based on an international classification of functioning, such cases should be compensated according to the injury’s impact on the life of the victim, rather than on the amounts set for individual injuries. In the graves cases, the total amount can reach 20 million crowns.

The guidelines are non-binding; however, their authors believe that they would be adopted by the courts and that they would also serve for calculating compensation in cases of out-of-court settlements. Roman Fiala is deputy chief justice of the Supreme Court.

“The original idea that the law would suffice and no guidelines were needed, was completely ideological, and would mean that people would not be able to agree on out-of-court settlements. It was expected that this would have been dealt with by court precedents. But that would lead to many years of uncertainty, and would also mean a high number of cases that could be settled out of court would have to be dealt with by judges.”

Photo: Barbora Kmentová
The new guidelines have been welcomed by the Czech Association of Patients as well as health insurance companies who say the new rules are fairer. But they also note that higher compensations will incur additional costs of around two billion crowns which will lead to an increase in the prices of health and some other types of insurance.