civil law


September 16, 2022



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A victim or his family may suffer emotional or mental distress when a breach, violation is committed against the victim. Under the UAE law, monetary compensation, in the form of moral damages, may be sought to compensate for such mental distress or such non-financial loss, in addition to compensatory damages which may be claimed for the breach. For instance, in cases of road traffic accidents, it is common for the victim or victim’s family to seek moral damages for the mental anguish caused to the victim.

Background to Damages & Moral Damages

In accordance with Article 124 of the Federal Law No. 5 of 1985 on the Civil Transactions Law of the United Arab Emirates State (Civil Transactions Law), the sources of personal obligations or rights are derived from the following sources:

  1. The contract.
  2. Unilateral act
  3. Tort
  4. The beneficial act.
  5. The law.

Under Article 283 of the Civil Transactions Law, the author of any tort, even if not discerning, is bound to repair the prejudice.

In accordance with Article 292 of the Civil Transactions Law, damages are assessed to cover the prejudice which was sustained and the loss of profit, provided it is a natural consequence of the prejudicial act.

In addition to this type of damages, Civil Transactions Law also provides for moral damages that can be sought by a claimant for emotional distress or loss of reputation. According to Article 293 of the Civil Transactions Law, moral damages are those which can be claimed against someone who has trespassed in a person’s freedom, honour, dignity, reputation, social standing or financial position.

In case victim has died, the victim’s family may claim and be awarded these moral damages.

Article 293 of the Civil Transactions Law is extracted below.

“Article 293"

  1. Damages shall include moral damages. Shall be considered moral damages, trespassing against others in their freedom, honour, dignity reputation social standing or financial position.
  2. Spouses and closet relatives of the family may be adjudged damages for the moral prejudice sustained by them as a result of the death of the injured.
  3. Recovery of moral damages is not transferable to others unless its amount is fixed by agreement or a final court judgment.

What is the time limitation for commencing an action for damages?

In accordance with Article 298 of the Civil Transactions Law, an action for damages arising from an unlawful act is prescribed after three years from the date upon which the victim knew of the injury and the identity of the person who was responsible.

Article 298/3 of the Civil Transactions Law also states that an action for damages is prescribed in any case after fifteen years from the date on which the prejudicial act was committed.

In many cases, the claim for damages, including moral damages arises out of a criminal action, such as defamation, etc. The question which may arise is whether the action for damages can still be heard?

The answer to that is yes. According to Article 297 of the Civil Transactions Law, the criminal penalty has no bearing on determining the scope of civil liability and assessment of damages. Civil liability, once its conditions are fulfilled, will not impair criminal responsibility. Article 298/2 of the Civil Transactions Law further states that where a claim arises out of a criminal offense and the hearing of the penal action is still pending after the lapse of the time limitation as mentioned above, the action for damages may still be heard.

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