The Judicial College Guidelines for the assessment of general damages in personal injury cases provides guidance to Judges and practitioners as to the value of General Damages. General Damages are compensation for pain and suffering resulting from an accident. The guidelines are updated regularly and were last published in November 2019.
The most obvious and significant change is the amount of damages that is likely to be recoverable. Between May 2017 and June 2019 there has been a continued period of inflation. Accordingly, nearly all the brackets have been increased by a factor of circa 7%.
The guidelines for hand injuries have seen the most reform. There is a new bracket for ‘Severe Fracture to Fingers’ for cases where there may have been partial amputations or other deformity. This is a helpful addition as previously such injuries fell awkwardly between the ‘Serious Hand Injuries’ and ‘Less Serious Hand Injuries’ brackets, with little guidance on how to differentiate between awards. There is also a new bracket for ‘Total and Partial Loss of Index Finger’. Again, this is useful for similar reasons. Finally, the ‘Trivial Thumb Injuries’ bracket has been removed. Such injuries will now be assessed in accordance with the new ‘Minor Hand, Finger and Thumb Injuries’ bracket. One might imagine a slight increase in awards for the most minor thumb injuries as a result of this.
There has been a slight reform to the deafness/tinnitus guidelines with a new bracket for ‘Mild tinnitus alone or mild NIHL alone’. Awards of around £11,000.00 are now to be are now to be expected. Previously it was likely these claimants would have had their general damages assessed in accordance with the ‘Slight NIHL without tinnitus’ bracket (or vice versa) where awards were up to £6,140.00. Therefore, although the change is slight the effects may be significant for such claimants.
There is a new bracket within the bowels guidelines for ‘Faecal urgency and passive incontinence persisting after surgery’. Such injuries most commonly arise where there has been an obstetric anal sphincter injury and may be of interest to those who practise in this area.
The guidelines are intended to reflect the law, not set it. Each time the guidelines are updated, a comprehensive review of reported decisions is undertaken. It is noted within the introduction of the fifteenth edition that there have been relatively few reported decisions over the last two years, and this is seen as a sign of how successful the guidelines have now become. However, individual quantum reports are still useful, and practitioners should consider reporting cases, particularly where a judge has not strictly followed the guidelines. Not only will this assist with the interpretation of the current edition, it could well directly shape the next one.
Richard Meggitt is a Solicitor and Partner with Accident Solicitors Direct. For advice as to the value of your claim please call 0114 2678780 or email [email protected]