UAE’s compensation system is more reasonable than those in the West, says expert

However, most people fail to understand the type of compensation they are asking for, an advocate and legal consultant says.

A T was awarded Dh600,000 after losing her right leg in a bus accident. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
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ABU DHABI // The UAE’s judicial system of compensation is far more reasonable than the “exaggerated” payouts that are common in the West, say legal consultants.

Most people fail to understand the type of compensation they are asking for, according to Ahmed Al Othali, a legal consultant.

Under UAE laws, diya, or blood money, is compensation for a human life and is set at Dh200,000 for men and women.

Compensation known as arsh is for the loss of an organ, a body part or their functions.

Payments are based on pre-determined amounts, and the percentage of disability is determined by a medical investigation team. The percentage is then calculated as a share of the Dh200,000 diya.

For example, if the medical investigation team determines that a person suffers from a 50 per cent disability, he will receive Dh100,000.

Some instances of bodily harm – such as the loss of both legs – are considered as deserving of the full diya amount.

What many people do not realise is that besides diya and arsh, there are other types of compensation that can result in a more substantial compensation, according to Mr Al Othali.

They include compensation for emotional damages and future financial losses.

“These are not set,” he said. “For example, when a person has an accident, he must have felt pain. I cannot set an amount on this pain. You’ll have a person who might cry all day because of a cut on his finger, while another would go right to bed if he was hit on the head.

“Pain is relative and it is important for the individual to make the court aware of the extent of the pain that he is feeling.”

Emotional damages have no set payment schedule, and must be claimed separately.

“A woman had an accident and because of the accident, her private parts were revealed,” said Mr Al Othali. “She can claim compensation for emotional damages – the shame and embarrassment that she felt because of the accident.”

He gave another example. “If a person has an accident that made him lose both his arms, he will get the Dh200,000 arsh money,” he said. “But he will need someone to feed him, change him and take care of him. So he will need to hire someone to help him.

“He might lose his job and be unable to work again. He might also have young children who are dependent on him. How will society look at him after the accident? So his situation is more complicated, which is why he should ask for and receive higher compensation.”

When a court calculates loss of earnings, a person’s salary would be calculated based on the retirement age, according to Mohammed Al Azazi, a legal consultant.

“Let’s say he had the accident when he was 35 years old,” he said. “When the court calculates his loss of earnings the court will estimate his earnings until his retirement age, which is around 60 to 65.

“For compensation that can’t be estimated – such as the way society looks at him after the injury or the pain that the injury caused – the court estimates [the compensation amount] as it sees fit. Here, the lawyer has to make the judge aware of the pain of his client. He might get up to Dh800,000.”

Speaking about another case, Mr Al Azazi said there was a woman who had gained a lot of weight after suffering an accident. “The appeals court ruled that she should receive Dh950,000. Her arsh was Dh150,000 because of her injuries,” he said.

Most compensation-related problems arose because plaintiffs sought unrealistic compensation amounts or they failed to properly assess the compensation formulas, said Mr Al Azazi.

“A person is scared of [being a passenger in a car] or driving because of a car accident. You can’t measure that. We expect that foreigners [at home] would probably ask for a million dollars in such a case and might probably get it because decisions in the West are jury-based,” he said.

But that was not a better system because eaggerated compensation would affect all sectors of society, he said.

“It leads to many companies, insurance companies and even banks going bankrupt,” said Mr Al Azazi. “Employees will be laid off and unemployment rates will rise because of a single case. Ultimately, it is an integrated system. It is not reasonable for it to all be affected for the benefit of a single individual. Honestly, the Sharia system measures it better.”

In the West, the compensation amounts awarded often depend on how good the plaintiff’s lawyer is. In the UAE, “the importance of the lawyer is to show and clarify to the judge the extent of the damages”, said Mr Al Othali.

He urged complainants to be specific when they undergo examination by forensic specialists. “Many times it’s the fault of the person because, when he goes to the forensics team, he shows them his medical report and does not tell them what he is going through.”