The assessment of damages

In French law, damages – also called damages – can be of three types: bodily, material or moral damages. Bodily injury represents any attack on a person’s physical integrity (wound, scar left, sexual assault, etc.). Material damages consist of damage to a person’s assets (fraud, medical expenses, damage to material goods, lost business opportunities, etc.). Non-pecuniary damages include all attacks on a person’s reputation, honor or joie de vivre (defamation, loss of a loved one, moral harassment, etc.).

An assessment to include with your claim

No matter what kind of harm one man causes to another, thearticle 1240 of the civil code it stipulates that any damage must be repaired, i.e. compensated. Damages most often concern a civil case, but it can also be linked to a criminal case (constitution of a civil party before the hearing or day of the hearing), or to an administrative case. Compensation for damages is made through a legal request for damages from the person or public service recognized as responsible for the damage. Each request must in principle be accompanied by a file that includes the assessment of the amount of compensation, related to the damage or to each of the damages suffered if there are several.

The only specific cases of these rules relate victims of acts of terrorism and crimes (theft, violence, road accident, etc.) for which the identity of the person responsible is not known. Compensated by the guarantee funds established by the State, these victims are not responsible for assessing the compensation for their damages. They must make their request and wait for the guarantee fund to make them an offer of compensation, which they are free to accept or refuse.

The different tools to assess compensation for damages

Assessing bodily or material injury is fairly easy to do. That of moral damage, a little less. For example, a broken nose during a fight can cause physical, material and moral damage to the victim. To assess the compensation for physical damages, the victim must go to his medical expert insurance, which will determine the amount of compensation to be requested. This can be particularly important if the broken nose causes aesthetic damage. To assess the compensation for material damage, the victim can rely on the invoices for the various costs generated by the assault (hospital expenses, medication, days off, clothes stained with blood, etc.). The assessment should only include costs directly related to the damage suffered, and never, for example, subsequent legal costs.

More difficult to identify, moral damage must be assessed with the help of a lawyer. The latter can be based both on jurisprudence and on the various existing reference systems. These benchmarks, the best known of which is undoubtedly the Dintilhac Nomenclature, are compensation evaluation grids for all types of damages (and therefore for moral damages), used by courts and insurers. It may also be interesting for victims to approach specialized associations to be accompanied in their assessment.

An assessment that precedes referral to court

For people going to court, assessing their damages is essential. First, because the court to ask depends on the amount claimed, when it comes to a civil case: the local court or court if the sum does not exceed 10,000 euros, and only the court if it is fixed above 10,000 euros. For a criminal case, the judicial court is the only court that can be seized by the victim. Ditto for the administrative court regarding an administrative case.

So, why does the judge rely on this assessment to fix the amount of damages. It cannot in fact condemn the person responsible for the damage to pay a sum greater than that which was requested by the victim. He can, however, lower the level of compensation if he is not satisfied with the documents provided to prove the damage and the amount requested (invoices, photos of the accident, injuries, medical documents, etc.). The compensation assessment will also be useful for victims who first want to start a friendly procedure. They can use it as a basis for negotiating compensation directly from the person responsible without going through a court.

(From the editorial office of the hREF agency)

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