Constitutional Court to the general courts when deciding on compensation for personal injury: Do not overestimate the findings of experts.

In an article for EPRAVO.CZ, associate Tereza Händlováwrites about the recent objections of the Constitutional Court to the uncritical acceptance of the findings of expert examinations in compensation for non-pecuniary personal injury.

Until the end of 2013, when the Civil Code of 1964 ceased to be in force, personal injury was compensated on the basis of a so-called point rating, i.e. on the basis of a point decree. The "new" Civil Code departed from this rule entirely in terms of value with effect from January 2014, providing that the same claims are to be compensated according to "principles of decency“.

However, in order to avoid a fragmentation of judicial practice, in which individual courts in the Czech Republic would start interpreting the decency principle with significant differences, the Supreme Court soon issued a new "tabular" aid, namely the Methodology for Compensation of Non-Pecuniary Personal Injury. This de facto replaced the point decree in judicial decision-making.

In practice, therefore, it is still quite common today for judges to rely entirely on the content of expert opinions when deciding on the amount of compensation for pain and social hardship suffered. In them, experts mechanically apply calculations in accordance with the predetermined tariffs contained in the Methodology. In addition, they often consider legal issues beyond the scope of technical factual questions, the assessment of which, however, is the sole responsibility of the court.    

The Constitutional Court has repeatedly criticized this practice, most recently in its March ruling in Case No. I. ÚS 1010/22. In addition to the above, it also reproaches the general courts for giving expert opinions greater evidentiary force and "overusing" them even where the issue at hand is not expert in nature. The Methodology is therefore to be used by the courts as a non-binding interpretative aid which must be adapted. 

The full text of Teresa's article is available here: