Overdrawn Emotional Bank Account: On the Non-Pecuniary Needs of PI Victims and the Promotion of Emotional Recovery

Activity: Lecture / PresentationAcademic


A constant outcome of research on the needs and experiences of PI victims is that they appear no less concerned with needs of a non-pecuniary nature than with financial compensation. Psychological research shows that suffering harm from a wrong disturbs the emotional balance between victim and wrongdoer. This can be expressed by the metaphor that the accident also caused an overdraft of the victim’s emotional bank account. Proper settlement of PI claims should therefore not only aim to redress the pecuniary harm suffered, but also to close this emotional deficit. The most prominent non-pecuniary need of victims is that the person who caused the harm (and his representatives such as insurers and loss adjusters) acknowledges responsibility in word and deed for the accident and its consequences. This acknowledgement can take several forms. A very tangible one is the offering of apologies. The acknowledgement of responsibility, the expression of empathy, and the undertaking of action (compensation, prevention) are an apology’s effective elements. Yet the same elements can also be expressed implicitly by the insurer and his personnel. Not by an apology, but by taking and keeping the initiative in the settlement process, by utilizing the formal legal acknowledgement of liability to bring across also a more symbolic message, and in general by presenting themselves to the victim as the ‘owners’ of the problem that damage was caused that now has to be confined, assessed and compensated. There is an inherent symbolic message in the way PI claims are being settled, which can be greatly improved by a more active posture and a more conscious approach of the emotional dimension of the settlement process.
Period23 May 2012
Event titleJustice for Victims: Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Conflict, Trauma and Reconcilliation. 14 th International Symposium of the World Society of Victimology
Event typeConference