Law equalizes compensation for rural, urban accident victims
Thanks to legal moves to unify standards for personal injury compensation, "Zhong Qing" (not her real name) was able to double her claim. The 31-year-old lives with her mother and daughter in Datang village in the suburbs of Changsha, capital of Hunan province. As the sole breadwinner, she supports her family by farming and running an online store.
A car accident in February last year disrupted her life. Had Changsha not implemented pilot regulations that set equal compensation standards for rural and urban victims of accidents, Zhong would have received 56,000 yuan ($8,298) in compensation, the local primary court judge who oversaw the case noted.
However, in September 2019, the Supreme People's Court authorized the trial of modified personal injury compensation regulations by higher provincial people's courts.
As a result, the court decided to award Zhong over 120,000 yuan in compensation, which took into account the loss of work, medical costs and dependent care expenses, determined according to living standards for urban residents in Hunan.
The pilot regulations became national law on May 1 and cover a broader scope of personal injuries.
The SPC stipulates that rural residents should receive the same compensation as their urban counterparts in personal injury cases that result in disability, death or dependent expenses.
The amount paid is calculated according to the per capita disposable income of the province's urban residents, or the total expenditure incurred in the year prior to the injury. The previous system of compensation distinguished between rural and urban victims. It followed the logic that compensation, as a means of remedying the loss of household income, meant that urban victims, who generally enjoy higher earnings on average, were likely to be more greatly affected.
In a judicial review before the regulation was implemented, the National People's Congress said that differences in compensation between urban and rural residents should be eliminated, along with the narrowing urban-rural gap in development levels and living standards.
"Unified personal injury compensation ensures equal protection for residents, regardless of where they live, and this signals social progress," said Li Ji, a police officer who deals with traffic accidents in Tianjin municipality.
Li cited an inter-regional case that took place in February during which a rural resident from neighboring Hebei province died in a car crash in Tianjin. As a result of the pilot regulation and police mediation, the victim's relatives received compensation based on the living standards of urban Tianjin residents, following negotiation with the driver and an insurance company.
In judicial practice, rural plaintiffs no longer need to prove their claims to meet urban standards, relieving victims of the burden of proof, said Duan Haobo, one of the top civil court judges at the Tianjin Higher People's Court. For the judiciary, uniform rules improve the efficiency of decisions. "The nondiscriminatory compensation standards reflect fairness and justice," Duan added.