A key amendment to the Polish Civil Code, which will unambiguously settle the dispute over awarding compensation to the closest family members of victims suffering permanent or serious bodily injury or health disorders, will soon enter into force. Not only is this amendment important for family members of injured persons, it will also impact insurance undertakings.
Currently in the Civil Code
Under the Polish Civil Code, it is possible to award compensation for non-material harm to the closest members of the injured person's family in the case of death as a result of a tort (Art. 446 § 4 of the Civil Code). The Civil Code, however, does not contain a clear basis for awarding compensation for the harm suffered in a case other than death (e.g. vegetative state of the injured person). Still, the courts sometimes interpreted the law in such a way that allowed for compensation in these situations, which created legal uncertainty that was disadvantageous to all participants in the insurance market. Families of the injured were forced to conduct long court proceedings and insurance undertakings faced challenges in conducting adequate financial and risk management.
What will change?
As a result of the amendment, Art. 4462 will be added to the Civil Code. This article provides a clear basis for awarding compensation for non-material damage in favour of the closest members of the family of a victim who cannot establish or continue family relations due to serious and permanent bodily injury or a health disorder. The list of cases in which this provision applies is open. It seems, however, that in practice it will apply to persons in a serious condition for whom there is no hope of resuming normal physical or mental functions (e.g. vegetative state, post-traumatic coma).
To what states will the amendment apply?
The Act will enter into force one month after the date of its promulgation. Importantly, the provision in question will also apply to events, which occurred prior to the effective date of the amendment.
We encourage you to contact us in order to obtain detailed information about the upcoming changes in the area of compensation.