Families of the 17 people killed in a bus crash in Dubai could be entitled to compensation, legal experts said.
Under UAE law, Dh200,000 in blood money – known as dia – can be paid to the family of a victim.
In some cases, this figure can be higher and the families could also file civil suits.
But before any compensation is paid out, a Dubai court will have to pass judgment on who is deemed culpable for the accident. On Thursday, more than half of the 31 passengers travelling to Dubai from Muscat, Oman, were killed in the crash.
The bus, driven by an Omani man in his 50s, rammed into an overhanging height-restriction barrier.
Most passengers were returning to the emirate after spending the Eid Al Fitr holiday in the neighbouring country.
The dead, among them 12 Indians, two Pakistanis, an Irishwoman and a Bangladeshi citizen, have since been repatriated and buried.
Investigations into the accident by police and prosecutors are under way, and the results will be presented at the First Criminal Court.
Once Dubai Police and prosecutors complete their investigation, the First Criminal Court will pronounce a judgment on who is to blame for the accident.
“In the UAE, Dh200,000 is the amount awarded in cases of death but this can go up as the judge has the right to add damages and compensation that are not part of the dia money,” said Ghassan El Daye, head of litigation Middle East with law firm Charles Russell Speechlys.
“This is because the court plays the role of guaranteeing the rights of the victims. Under UAE law, in cases of death, the court can rule at the same time on the responsibility and on the dia money.”
If the prosecution’s investigation finds the driver responsible, the family of the deceased will require certificates to prove that they are the legal heirs, said Hashik T K, legal consultant with Abdul Rahman Moutawaa Associates.
“We must wait for the court judgment but the family must obtain a legal heirs certificate to claim for compensation,” he said.
The families will also need their relative’s death certificate and will have to submit medical records and proof of income to indicate their earning capacity before filing a civil suit for compensation.
Barney Almazar, a director at Gulf Law, said that in previous cases families have either settled the case out of court or filed a case for damages and loss of earnings.
“Depending on the person’s salary and the number of people the deceased was supporting, the court will calculate how much the family has lost and decide on the compensation amount,” he said.
A potential range of compensation cannot be estimated because it will be determined based on several factors including age and if the deceased was the family’s sole breadwinner.
For the 14 passengers who survived the crash, judges will consider awarding them compensation for any injuries sustained or disabilities, based on medical reports.
“Under UAE law, the injury will be categorised as temporary or permanent,” Mr El Daye said.
“The court will obtain medical records about the extent the injury affects the person’s job performance and that will determine the level of compensation.
“If for any reason the judgment cannot be executed in Dubai, it can be enforced in Oman for recovery of the amounts,” Mr El Daye said.
“Oman is signatory to the convention that governs judicial co-operation between countries under the Arab League.”