The matter decided by the Supreme Court was about an action in damages brought by the relatives of a woman who died two hours after a road accident.
The claimants considered insufficient the compensation awarded in the lower grades of judicial proceedings and, through the recourse to the Supreme Court, they claimed additional items of damage to those previously considered.
The Court of Cassation affirmed the following, significant principles of law.
1) Over the last few years, in the matter of personal injury, compensation has been requested using various expressions for descriptive purposes; among others, the Court recalled the following: “terminal damage“, “wrongful death damage“, “catastrophic damage“, “existential damage“. The Court clarified that all these expressions, not only they create confusion and sometimes they have an incorrect meaning, but above all they do not correspond to any legal category.
2) The victim of an accident who dies shortly after due to the injuries can suffer non-pecuniary damage of two types: a) a “damage to health” and b) a damage resulting from “suffering due to the awareness of imminent death”.
2a) In cases such as the one at issue, the damage to health (so called “biological damage“) cannot be in the form of permanent disability but only in the form of temporary disability. In ordinary cases the victim may acquire a right to compensation for damage to health if surviving to the injuries for an “appreciable period of time“, which the Court of Cassation says must be “more than 24 hours“.
2b) With reference to the damage arising from the “suffering caused by the awareness of having to die“, the Court of Cassation affirms that this type of prejudice “presupposes that the victim is conscious” during the period of the time between injuries and death. On the other hand, as far as this type of damage is concerned, it is not necessary to survive for a minimum period of time and that is not relevant to assess the severity of the damage suffered.