Moral damage and Compensation for bereavement or grief to relatives of the victim: which is the difference on the Greek legal system, the precise meaning and the criteria of compensation
It is common in everyday reality to use the phrase “I will ask for a compensation of bereavement” to express our desire to receive compensation for moral damage because of a happening or an individual’s action. Is this phrase legally correct? Or it does not represent exactly our willing?
In order to be made more understandable, we should firstly separate the kinds of compensation we are able to ask for, through the juridical procedure. An action, omission or incident can be legally important if it can cause damage on a person. This damage may be material when it has monetary value for e.g. because of a collision the front guard of the car was completely destroyed, or moral for e.g. because of the insulting I was personally offended. Based on this criterion, a distinction should be made between material and non-material damage as the reason of compensation. We receive moral damage when something affected our personality, physical or mental health. When the injurious fact has to do with the death of a person we can talk for a compensation of bereavement or grief to the relatives of the victim. In reality, the content of the two meanings is exactly the same, what is different is the beneficiary of the compensation who is the victim itself when it comes to moral damage and its relatives when the victim has died.
Let’s describe precisely every case separately:
- Moral damage:
The essential precondition for moral damage is the existence of an accidental or deliberate action that caused the damage on our mental or physical health, whether this damage is temporarily (e.g. an insulting) or permanent (e.g. a permanent disability). The right to compensation for moral damage is enshrined in Greek law (art. 932 par. 1 of the Greek civil code). To identify the amount of compensation, the judge takes into consideration the criteria below:
- The gravity of the damage. The compensation cannot be the same at a case of a permanent disability comparing to a temporarily fracture that was recovered after 1 or 2 months.
- The extend of blame or liability of the offender and the victim’s co-liability. For example, if we have been hitted by a car while pedestrians and the injurious car has not trespassed the legal speed limit in the area or was legally moving through a set of green traffic lights, then the driver has no intent to hit us and in that case the amount of compensation will be less high comparing to the case that the driver was moving illegally because he trespassed a red traffic light or the speed limit. Also, the compensation will be more reduced in the case of co-liability if for e.g. the pedestrian crossed the road having a red indicator light.
- The economic situation of the parties. The more economically strong the offender is, the higher the amount of the compensation we can ask for.
- Compensation for bereavement or grief to relatives of the victim
The meaning of compensation for bereavement or grief to relatives of the victim is partial comparing to that of moral damage because as I already mentioned it concerns only the cases of a person’s death. As a meaning it represents the physical pain, compressibility and the phycological disturbance that a violent death of a relative can cause. That kind of compensation finds its legal basis on the Greek civil code (ar. 932 par. 2) where the legislator is strictly referred to the beneficiary of the compensation as the deceased’s family. As “family”, according to a large part of the Greek case-law are meant the close relatives of the deceased and more precisely the spouse, parents, siblings, children and the grandparents only if there were strong family links between them and the deceased. In order for the court to reach a position on the demanded compensation, it should take into consideration, other than the ones mentioned above, the following criteria:
- Family relationship between the victim and the applicants of the compensation. Even if there is a strong relationship, the court cannot award a sum to the applicant if he is not between one of them mentioned above (spouse, parents, siblings, children, grandparents).
- The gravity of the emotional bond between the victim and the applicants of the compensation. Usually, the cohabitation of relatives provides a presumption of a strong emotional bond. Although that is not absolute because in a lot of cases that presumption has been distorted.
- The age of the deceased. The younger the victim is, the larger the amount of compensation that will be awarded to the relatives and that is because according to the natural course of events a younger victim is supposed to live longer than an older.
- The special conditions of the accident. The amount awarded will differ in the case of an instantaneous death compared to if the death came after hours or days of suffering. The more violent the death is, the higher the awarded compensation.
The Greek legislator established the provisions for moral damage and compensation for bereavement to relatives in order to cover all that cases that a physical damage is caused by an individual’s fault or illegal action. The aim of the legislator was both the satisfaction of the offended and the exemplary punishment of the offender in accordance to his liability.
In conclusion, while referring to moral damage, we seek for compensation for all that non-pecuniary damages such as a mental damage or infringement of the right to protection of personality. When the injurious fact is a person’s death then we talk for compensation of bereavement to the relatives while the bearer of the rights – the victim – does not anymore exists. So, we have to do with two meanings with identical content that differ when it comes to the beneficiaries and the criteria taken into consideration as for the award of the compensation demanded.