13 Jan 2020

Damages for Personal Injury in Dubai (Part II)

Authored by: Rami Obeid

In brief:

  • This article is Part II of our article on Damages for Personal Injury in Dubai.
  • A conclusion to our review of the way the Duabi Courts have treated Personal Injury claims and the awards that have been made in a number of cases.
  • A review of examples from reported cases which highlights the inconsistency and the unpredictability of awards as well as a brief discussion of the more recent trends in the level of awards being made by the UAE Courts.

(C) Recoverability of Damages

As we saw in Part I of our examination of Damages for Personal Injury in Dubai (available here), the UAE Courts have full discretion to assess damages in personal injury cases. This almost unfettered discretion has led to inconsistent awards for damages (please see (i) below) and has rendered the outcome of such cases unpredictable (please see (ii) below).

Annex 1 contains a schematic outline, which may be of interest.

         Inconsistency of awards

  1. The inconsistency of the level of damages awarded by the Dubai Courts is illustrated by the following five cases:
  1. In a case where the Claimant was 100% disabled following a car accident[1], the Court of First Instance awarded the Claimant AED 1,000,000 for physical (bodily injury) and moral damages and 5% in terms of interest[2] (despite the Claimant seeking AED 5,000,000 in damages and interest of 9%). The Claimant appealed to the Court of Appeal and sought AED 3,000,000 in damages. The Court of Appeal and the Court of Cassation affirmed the decision of the Court of First Instance. The fact that the Claimant was young and had a wife and child was considered by the Court of First Instance. 
  1. In a case involving injury caused by a wooden board falling on the head of the Claimant (who sought AED 2,000,000 in damages) which caused him to become a quadriplegic, the Court of First Instance (after considering the expert medical report which opined that the Claimant was 100% disabled) awarded AED 1,000,000 for physical (bodily injury) and moral damages.[3] The Claimant was also awarded interest at 9% (from the date on which the judgment became final until the date that full payment was received). The fact that the disability prevented him from working and continuing normal life was considered by the Court.
  1. In a case involving a Claimant who was 35% disabled in both legs and suffered damage to his jaw, the Court of First Instance awarded AED 150,000 even though the Claimant sought AED 1,000,000 in damages. This was appealed to the Court of Appeal which awarded the Claimant AED 250,000 as compensation for physical damages.[4] The Court of Cassation affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeal. The same amount was awarded for compensation for loss of the sense of smell (whereby the Claimant lost his job in a petrol station where the ability to smell was critical).[5]
  1. In antoher case, the Claimant sought AED 5,170,063 in damages. His left leg was disabled as a result of a car accident and he needed to use a wheelchair. The Court of First Instance obliged the insurance company to pay AED 120,000 with interest of 9%. This was appealed to the Court of Appeal, which awarded AED 300,000 for physical damages. The Court of Appeal considered the fact that the Claimant lost his job. This was again appealed and the Court of Cassation remanded the case to the Court of Appeal for the level of damages to be assessed. [6]  We are not currently aware of the latest decision in this case.
  1. In antoher case, the Claimant sought AED 4,000,000 in damages and interest at 12%. The Claimant’s injuries were sustained as a result of a car accident. Physical disability was assessed at 30%. The Court of First Instance obliged the insurance company to pay AED 500,000. This was appealed to the Court of Appeal which dismissed the appeal. The insurance company filed an appeal to the Court of Cassation, which decided to remit the matter to the Court of Appeal for the assessment of damages on the basis of insufficient justification for the award of AED 500,000. The Court of Appeal considered the loss of opportunity to continue studying at university and the continuous medical assistance the Claimant will need in the future. The fact that the Claimant was young (26 years old) was also a factor considered by the Court of Appeal.[7]

The above five examples are based on a review of the summaries of Court judgments, which do not include comprehensive details about the submissions of the parties, as they are private.

Unpredictable outcomes

  1. The unpredictability of the outcome of a personal injury case can be shown by these two examples:
  1. In one case (in which the Claimant requested AED 7,000,000 as a result of injuries suffered after a car accident) the Dubai Court of Appeal raised the compensation which the Court of First Instance initially awarded from AED 50,000 to AED 250,000. The Court of Appeal considered the initial award of AED 50,000 insufficient in light of the fact that the Claimant was young (20 years old) and needed to undergo future medical treatment (it appears that the Claimant provided an expert report to this effect, which was considered by the Court of Appeal).[8] The decision of the Court of Appeal was upheld by the Court of Cassation.
  1. In another case, the Court of Appeal raised the amount of compensation which the Court of First Instance initially awarded, from AED 500,000 to AED 1,200,000[9]. The Claimant sought damages of AED 6,000,000 in respect of a car accident his son (a minor) had, as a result of which the son became a quadriplegic. The Court of Appeal considered the future damages to be the actual damages he sustained. The Court of Appeal considered the fact that the Claimant was young (the judgment does not specify his age). The Claimant received AED 300,000 in moral damages for his son, AED 700,000 in physical damages for his son and AED 200,000 for himself in terms of moral damages. This decision was upheld by the Court of Cassation.

Recent Developments

The trend in Personal Injury damages awarded by the Dubai Courts is generally increasing.

Claims brought by Claimants in Dubai are often inflated, with a view to using the Statement of Claim as leverage in settlement negotiations. This tactic is facilitated by the fact that Court fees are capped. Although litigants pursuing a claim in the civil courts often claim for loss of earnings or economic loss, in addition to claims for physical injury, significant awards for these claims have been few and far between.

Recently, there has been a specific increase in the amounts awarded to claimants in personal injury cases in the Dubai Courts. Although this can be seen as a developing trend, it has been our experience that the Dubai Courts are still somewhat reluctant to award large amounts of damages to claimants. We believe that AED 7 million is amongst the largest awards given by the UAE Courts (specifically, Abu Dhabi) to the family of a woman who was in a permanent vegetative state following medical treatment. 

Conclusion

The most relevant legislative provisions regarding personal injury claims in Dubai are to be found in the UAE Civil Code. 

Physical and material damages, moral damages, loss of earnings, loss of opportunity and potential future damages are all heads of damages recognised by the Dubai Courts.

In cases brought for personal injury in the Dubai Courts, it is likely that the Court will appoint an expert. It is not unusual for the expert to comment both on fact and on law; it is also not uncommon for the Court to accept the opinion of the expert, although this is not binding on the Court.

Although the burden of proof is on a claimant to prove that harm was caused, the Dubai Courts have wide discretion to determine whether actual “harm” exists. The Dubai Courts have wide discretion to determine what amounts to “harm” and what level of damages to also award for harm. This almost unfettered discretion has led to Courts awarding inconsistent and unpredictable damages awards – meaning that the outcome of a personal injuries case is difficult to predict.

Annex I

Table 1

Year and Court

Disability

Amount Awarded

Age of Claimant

 

2007: Court of Appeal

30%

AED 500,000 (Currently being reviewed)

26

 

2008: Court of Appeal

Left Leg Disabled

AED 300,000 (Currently being reviewed)

Not Known

 

2008: Court of First Instance

100%

AED 1,000,000 plus Interest at 9%

Not Known

 

2010: Court of Cassation

35%

AED 250,000

Not Known

 

2011: Court of Cassation

100%

AED 1,000,000 plus Interest at 5%

Not Known

 

2011: Court of Cassation

Car Accident Injuries

AED 250,000

20

 

2011: Court of Cassation

Quadriplegic

AED 1,200,000

Not Known

 

 

Graph 1

Note: It is clear from the above table and graph that although the awards vary greatly, much will depend on the circumstances of each case, such as the age of the claimant, the actual disability and the likely need for future treatment.

 


[1] It should be noted that cases relating to car accidents typically involve a criminal element, which means that the criminal judgment may assist in satisfying the burden of proof in the civil case (or otherwise has impact on the assessment of the civil case).

[2] Case No 175/2011, Dubai Court of Cassation. 

[3] Case No 76/2008 and Case No 78/2008 and 43/2008, Dubai Court of Cassation. 

[4] Case No 214/2010, Dubai Court of Cassation.  

[5] See Case No 238/2009 and 240/2009, Dubai Court of Cassation.

[6] Case No 28/2008, Dubai Court of Cassation. 

[7] Case No 213/2007, Dubai Court of Cassation.

[8] Case No 138/2011, Dubai Court of Cassation. 

[9] Case No 93/2011, Dubai Court of Cassation. 

 
 

This article, including any advice, commentary or recommendation herein, is provided on a complimentary basis without consideration of any specific objectives, circumstances or facts. It reflects the views of the writer which may, in some cases, differ from those of the firm, especially in the developing jurisdiction of the UAE.