Chapters of the article
What’s the harm?
According to Czech law, compensable damage, or harm, can be both pecuniary and non-pecuniary. Everyone can probably imagine some type of property damage: a car accident, a spilt suit of your colleague or a mobile phone that you knocked out of someone’s hand on the tram are situations where damage occurs. But beware: we also include so-called lost profits in property damage, i.e. what the value of the property has not increased by, although this could have been expected in the normal course of things. So, for example, if you damage an ice cream maker’s ice cream machine, you don’t just pay for the repair of the machine itself or the purchase of a new one, but you also pay for the amount of money that the ice cream maker was unable to earn because of you.
Non-pecuniary damage can be, for example, damage to the reputation of a person about whom we have spread false information. In the case of non-pecuniary damage, the obligation to pay damages arises provided that the law expressly so provides (unless the obligation to pay compensation for non-pecuniary damage has been expressly agreed).
A number of laws contain partial legal provisions on compensation for damages, the key one being the Civil Code.
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Prevention of damage
Everyone should act in such a way as to avoid causing harm (to property, health, freedom, etc.) to others. The general prerequisites for the obligation to compensate for damage are:
- wrongful act (may consist of a breach of good morals, a contractual obligation or the law),
- the occurrence of damage,
- causal link,
- fault (intentional or negligent).
Even negligence is sufficient for liability for damages to arise, unless the law expressly refers to intent (direct or indirect).
Circumstances precluding the obligation to compensate for damage
Imagine ripping someone’s jacket and breaking their nose, and even admitting that you did it intentionally, and yet no one will hold you liable for damages. How is that possible? It can happen in a situation where you are acting in necessary defence, i.e. where the person attacked you first in a similar way and you are just defending yourself. The emphasis on “in a similar manner” is quite appropriate here. If you were threatened with only minor harm (for example, if someone bumped into you on a tram and you failed to control your emotions, knocked him to the ground and, in a fit of rage, smashed his designer glasses), you would certainly not be able to use the necessary defence.
The second situation in which the Civil Code will excuse you from having to pay damages is an act of extreme hardship. This means that you cause harm when you yourself are averting a much greater danger. For example, you break a window to enter a burning flat to save small children.
Making a claim for compensation
A common way to make a claim is to make a claim for compensation. You can try to negotiate with the pest or make a written claim for compensation. However, it is up to the person and their attitude to decide whether such a claim will be sufficient.
If he refuses to compensate you for the damage, a civil action should follow.
In civil proceedings, the onus is then on you to prove all the prerequisites for compensation, i.e. the unlawful act, the occurrence of the damage and the causal link between the wrongful act of the tormentor or the harmful event and the damage.
If there are more than one person, they can either be held jointly and severally liable or you can claim damages from any one of them. The pests can then make what is known as a recourse claim against each other. The court may also decide that the parties contributed unequally to the damage and will then be liable according to their degree of fault.
Tip: Worried about material liability at work and thinking about insurance? Read our article to find out everything you need to know.
How is compensation paid?
In the case of property damage, the basic principle is, where possible, to restore the property to its original condition (e.g. by repairing the damaged item). Only if this is not possible (for example, if the item is irreparably destroyed) or if the injured party requests it, is the damage compensated in money.
In the case of non-pecuniary damage, adequate compensation must then be quantified to ‘make good’ the damage. Compensation is usually awarded in money (unless another effective method is provided). Other appropriate means may be, for example, an apology or restitution.
The form and amount of appropriate compensation must be determined in such a way as to take account of and compensate for certain exceptional circumstances which have arisen. These may include, for example, the use of threats, the abuse of the victim’s dependence on the person who harmed them or discrimination against the victim. The victim’s fear of a threat to his or her life or health would also be taken into account. In such cases, increased harm to the victim is presumed and compensation should be appropriate.
Limitation of the right to compensation
In some cases, you know about the damage and the wrongdoer at the time it occurs. This is evident, for example, when a colleague spills coffee on your computer. But many cases are not this obvious. For example, when you come to your car in the shared garage after a week, you find it is damaged, but you identify the pest a few weeks later. It is these circumstances that affect the start of the limitation period. This is because it is determined by when you become aware of the damage and the identity of the pest.
From that point on, the so-called subjective limitation period of three years runs, during which you can claim compensation for the damage. However, there is also an objective limitation period, which states that the latest time for claiming compensation is ten years from the date on which the damage occurred, and fifteen years in the case of intentional damage.
Waiver of the right to compensation
The General Civil Code (CCC) allows for the possibility of waiving or contractually limiting the future right to compensation. An exception to this rule is the waiver of the right to compensation in the case of damage caused by a defect in the product or in the case of injury to health and life.