Indemnifying personal injury in France : tools for calculating damages

Personal injury damages, amounts, guidelines and schedules : where to find them

Mercredi 6 décembre 2006, par Emmanuel Barthe // Ressources juridiques pour les particuliers et les TPE

Are there guidelines for calculating personal injury damages in France ("barèmes" in French) ? In the UK there are the JSB Guidelines [1]. So is there a French equivalent ? Such was the question asked on the LIS-Law list in January 2006.

Quite surprisingly, a few days before, someone asked the same question on the French Juriconnexion mailing list (the thread is named "Pretium doloris"). Here are the answers :
http://fr.groups.yahoo.com/group/ju...
http://fr.groups.yahoo.com/group/ju...
http://fr.groups.yahoo.com/group/ju...
http://fr.groups.yahoo.com/group/ju...

To sum it up and add some of my own information : in France, there is still — but this may change : see at the end of this article — no official guidelines [2], but the judge may use any or none of the following sources :

  • the GP-Doc CD-ROM from the Gazette du Palais [3] is a database containing somme 2500 summaries of case law in the field of personal injury damages, compensation for expropriation, seizure of real estate, ...
  • containing data extracted from the Gazette du Palais, there is Indemnisation du dommage corporel, by Jean-Gaston Moore (3rd edition, Gazette du Palais, 2006)
  • the "Jurisprudence" database on the French LexisNexis-Jurisclasseur online platform (alas, only available on annual subscription and quite expensive). It is the new name for the Juris-Data database of "cour d’appel" (second instance) judgments. The amount of damages awarded is generally mentioned in the summary of the judgement
  • Le contentieux de l’indemnisation (LexisNexis, december 2005) : this looseleaf edition is quite big (approx. 400 pages) and is updated every six months. It contains data from nearly 2000 "cours d’appel" decisions, data which is extracted from the Juris-Data database cited above
  • for those who have the JurisClasseur Civil or the JurisClasseur Responsabilité civile et assurances, there is : Évaluation du préjudice corporel : Tableau de jurisprudence des cours d’appel, 2002 et début 2003 (JurisClasseur Civil Code, Art. 1382 à 1386, Fasc. 202-40 : Régime de la réparation - Modalités de la réparation - Règles communes aux responsabilités délictuelle et contractuelle - Évaluation du préjudice corporel : Tableau de jurisprudence des cours d’appel, 2002 et début 2003) [4]. It is much less detailed, of course, than the preceding work
  • local law reviews (almost all of them in paper format only), such as Revue de Jurisprudence de Basse Normandie or Revue de Jurisprudence Régionale (Montpellier)
  • French insurers maintain a database of damages awarded by courts or, after out of court settlement, by insurers, to victims of accidents on the road. It is public but only accessible through minitel (3614 AGIRA). It is named AGIRA for "Association pour la gestion des informations sur le risque automobile" [5]
  • there is a "barème" on Amazon.fr which, it seems, is implemented by judges : Barème d’évaluation médico-légale / Société de Médecine Légale et de Criminologie de France, Association des médecins experts en dommage corporel. - 144 p. - ESKA ; Alexandre Lacassagne, 2000
  • finally, each "cour d’appel" has (e.g. : Lyon 2004, Aix-Marseille 2004, Rennes 3 times a year) or doesn’t have its own "barème". Ask the court directly.

Some further reading : one may be interested in these documents :

On a European level :

One should note that the harmonisation of personal injury damages has become an issue in France and also in Europe, because of rising costs (6 to 7% per year in France) and the inequality between the amounts of damages awarded, which can differ a lot depending on the place and the tribunal. French insurers are pushing towards that and the French Supreme court (Cour de cassation) is currently thinking about it. On the European level, there are now official guidelines for EU civil servants [9]. So we may see, in a few years time, official French or EU guidelines for indemnifying personal injury.

Emmanuel Barthe
French law librarian researcher

Notes de bas de page

[1Guidelines for the Assessment of General Damages in Personal Injury Cases / Judicial Studies Board, Lady Justice Smith, Oxford University Press

[2The minister of Justice even rebuked, on October 13, 2006, the guidelines project submitted by the two French insurers federations, saying that he may not impose any guidelines upon the judges because of the French law principle of indemnifying each victim completely and according to her own personal situation (« réparation intégrale du préjudice corporel, appréciée in concreto »).

[3It reproduces the content of the Recueils bimestriels of the law journal Gazette du Palais.

[4Don’t count on the online version available on the LexisNexis-Jurisclasseur platform : the format used for the table makes it totally unpractical.

[5Association pour la gestion des informations sur le risque automobile (AGIRA), 11, rue de la Rochefoucauld 75009 Paris.

[7The Dintihac report (Rapport du groupe de travail chargé d’élaborer une nomenclature des préjudices corporels, juillet 2005) has been published in the Bulletin d’information de la Cour de cassation (BICC) n° 633 dated 1 February 2006, which is available on the Cour de cassation web site. This report is not about the amount of damages, but their classification by types.

[8Disponible (format PDF) sur le site web du Ministère de la Justice (102 pages) et, dans une autre présentation, sur le site de la Bibliothèque des rapports publics (BRP) (60 pages) de la Documentation française.

[9Vers l’harmonisation des indemnisations des dommages corporels / Géraldine Vial, Les Echos, December 6, 2006 p. 38.