COMPENSATION OF VICTIMS' RELATIVES IN SWISS LAW, THE DIFFICULT QUANTIFICATION OF A HUMAN LOSS
In Switzerland, Article 47 of the Federal Act supplementing the Swiss Civil Code provides that "The judge may, taking into account particular circumstances, award the victim of bodily injury or, in the case of death, the family, fair compensation as moral reparation.
It appears from the practice of Swiss courts that this moral damage is assessed according to a two-stage process.
The Swiss courts therefore analyse successively :
the objective seriousness of your injury
the elements specific to the case in question
An objective amount is thus allocated as an indication in a first phase and in a second phase, all the circumstances of the case are taken into account to adjust the basic amount, this last phase being more important in serious cases.
Phase 1: In order to calculate the basic amount to which a victim's next of kin may be entitled, the maximum insured earnings at the time of death, i.e. CHF 148,200 under the LAA (Compulsory Accident Insurance Act), must be taken into account.
When calculating such an amount, the aim of providing the injured party with a certain feeling of enrichment should only serve as an overall criterion, applicable in the same way to all injured parties, and making it possible to set the range within which the total compensation should be situated.
Thus, the Swiss courts have based themselves on the figures used in the literature, in particular the figures used by Hütte, which are most probably the closest to the current case law. A basic compensation of 35% of the share of earnings insured by the compulsory accident insurance is awarded for the death of a child (Guyaz Alexandre, le tort moral en cas d'accident:une mise à jour, SJ 2013 II p. 215 ss, 250 s.)
Therefore, in the case of a human death following a road accident, a parent would be awarded CHF 52,000 (i.e. 35% of CHF 148,200) as basic moral compensation.
Phase 2: Using the example of parents who have lost their child, the basic amount of CHF 52,000 could be increased to some extent, given the mitigating or aggravating circumstances in each particular case.
The fact of having directly witnessed the accident, the intensity of the bond between a mother and her deceased daughter, the pain caused by the loss of the child or the moral suffering resulting from the fact that no one was found guilty in the criminal proceedings, for example, are elements that may well be taken into consideration by the judges in order to increase the compensation.
However, this compensation must be fixed in a "fair" manner, thus leaving a wide margin of appreciation to the courts. As mentioned above, compensation is also assessed in comparison with similar situations and the amounts awarded in those cases.
Case law and doctrine take into account, among other things, the seriousness of the fault committed by the wrongdoer when determining the compensation. The latter should be considered only insofar as it has aggravated the claimant's psychological pain and made it even more difficult to accept the situation suffered.
In sum, there are ultimately as many grounds for awarding 100,000 francs as there are for awarding 200,000 francs or 1,000,000 francs for the same injury and it would undoubtedly be preferable for this type of decision to be taken directly by the legislator rather than left to the discretion of the judge.
Article 45 paragraph 3 of the Swiss Code of Obligations provides for damages for the loss of support resulting from the death of a loved one. It is necessary to estimate the hypothetical income that an individual would have obtained from his or her deceased loved one from the day of his or her death. In order to do this, it is necessary to examine several criteria: the amount of income, the proportion of this income that was spent on the relative, possible reductions and the duration of the support. If the support was given in kind (in the form of work, household help, care, etc.), it is possible to estimate its value, but this is more difficult to demonstrate in court.
In conclusion, when a loved one is lost, a certain category of individuals close to the deceased can claim their rights before a court to receive both compensation for the moral suffering experienced and the economic damage that follows the death.
It has been observed that the amounts awarded to relatives are small compared to what some have suffered, such as the loss of a child or parents. Only in exceptional cases has Swiss case law doubled the compensation for moral damages and prevented claims from being made for sums that are too high compared to the latter, at the risk of having claims rejected.
Today, therefore, it seems that this process is not very representative of the pain endured. The moral issue should probably be examined by the legislator in order to revalue the amounts awarded in the event of death and avoid this issue being left to the arbitrariness of a judge.
Jennifer Gaumann & Ambre Schindler