French lawyers seek ‘emotional distress’ compensation for Paris attacks victims

A group of 170 lawyers representing the victims of the November 13, 2015 attacks in Paris have requested their clients receive additional compensation from an insurance fund set up by the French government for the “emotional distress” they suffered.

The attacks, which targeted outdoor cafés, a concert hall and a football stadium in and around the French capital, claimed the lives of a total of 130 people and left hundreds others injured.

In the request, lawyers for the victims argued their clients should receive additional compensation for the “very considerable distress” they suffered on that fateful night, which “shifted in the space of a few seconds from a moment of fun or festivities to a scene of war”.

They also asked that the victims’ families be compensated for the hardship they endured while waiting for news of their loved ones, specifically during “the time that passed between when they learned of the event and confirmation that their relatives were present at the scene of the attack”.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, the French government was widely criticised over how it handled the identification of the victims. Many families complained they did not receive confirmation of death until as many as three days after the attacks, leaving them in a state of prolonged anguish.

The request added that the victims’ families should receive money for “the horrible circumstances in which [they] were informed of the health condition/death” of their loved ones”.

If awarded, it would not be the first time a victim was compensated for emotional distress in France. Most recently, an agreement was reached to pay €50,000 to the victims of a fatal bus crash in the southwestern town of Puisseguin on October 23, 2015. Forty-three people were killed in the accident, the second deadliest in France.

“For the past three months there has been an amicable agreement over Puisseguin that recognises the emotional distress suffered by those who burned in the bus,” Frédéric Bilal, one of the lawyers who signed the request in Paris, told AFP.

“[The victims of the November 13 attacks] lived through something terrifying, they all knew what was happening,” Bilal said, adding that their distress had not yet been taken into account by an insurance fund set up by the French government known as the FGTI.

“It’s not a form of posturing. The victims’ rights must be respected and [everything] must be taken into account,” Dominique Attias, vice president of the Paris Bar Association, told AFP.

The move could prove extremely costly for the FGTI, which has already handed out €43.8 million of the €300-400 million it has budgeted for the 2,800 victims of the November 13 attacks.

But Bilal said he was not worried about the money. “It has been affirmed and reaffirmed, particularly by the president, that there won’t be a problem with financing, that it wasn’t an issue,” he said.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

Date created : 2016-11-07

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