How do our Courts assess compensation for personal injury and loss?
It is a common misapprehension that people with devastating life changing injuries are entitled to £1 million- plus awards for the injuries alone. Sadly, awards in England and Wales are not generous, athough our Courts have for very many years wrestled with the question of how one truly compensates for pain suffering and loss of amenity (reduced quality of life). It is extremely challenging to put a £ to something as subjective as pain. It is however vitally important that compensation truly recognises the devastating impact of life changing injuries.
Our Judges award compensation for injuries according to the latest-end of 2019- edition of the Judicial College Guidelines. By way of example, the following are the highest awards to be made for particular injuries (the guide covers, essentially, all parts of the body/ injury types);
–Tetraplegia i.e. loss of use of all 4 limbs, £380,000
-Paraplegia i.e. loss of use of legs/ function from the waist down, £267,000
-The most severe brain damage, £380,000
-Moderate brain damage, rendering a person unfit to work, £205,000
-Severe spinal fracture with immobility of the neck and loss of use of 1 or more limbs, £123,000
-Above knee amputation, £129,000
-The most serious knee injury, £90,000
-Knee fractures with serious constant pain, £65,500
Injuries are valued by reference to expert opinions, for instance from orthopaedic surgeons, neurologists, neuropsychologists, psychiatrists, and these experts are independent and are reporting to the Court i.e. they owe a duty of impartiality. Defendants/ insurance companies tend to obtain their own opinions, particularly in cases of serious/ life changing injury.
The reason a serious/ disabling knee injury claim, for example, can end up with a total award in excess of £1 million, is that, with the right legal/ expert team, all aspects of lifelong loss can be fully investigated and costed. For instance, a 20-year-old may face 50 years’ loss of earnings at say £30,000 per year (less any residual earnings), may need lifelong (70 years’) paid help and support at say £200 per week, and may need a bungalow i.e. to avoid stairs.
Financial loss claims tend to be supported by a range of experts such as employment, accountancy, pensions, housing, care, occupational therapy/aids and equipment, transport, footwear etc., to ensure that reliable lifelong costs are considered.
A recent case of ours, involving a leg injury, was settled in negotiations in 2019 for almost £850,000. More important than pure money, however, was that we enabled our client to have peace of mind as to loss of earnings, potential future surgery costs etc., safe in the knowledge that they would always be able to undertake their leisure pursuits, because necessary/ disability adaptations were all factored in.
The purpose of compensation is, so far as possible, to put the injured person back in the same position they would have been in had the accident/injuries not occurred. It is all about helping people to get their lives back and to restore peace of mind.
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