Personal Injury and Conveyancing Specialists
Is it really fair that if I cause harm to your reputation you can be awarded damages in tens, even hundreds of thousands of pounds but if I injure you and as a result you suffer a personal injury you are only entitled to a relatively modest sum. Most (apart from perhaps Insurance Companies and their lawyers) would say that this was grossly unfair.
The Courts in the USA are a little more enlightened when it comes to awarding damages for personal injuries although some would say that they have gone too far towards the other end of the pendulum.
Damages awarded for personal injuries in the UK are generally woefully low and do not adequately compensate the victims of accidents (loss of an eye is worth up to £30,000 and loss of a leg up to £60,000)
The Law Commission has recently made recommendations to the Court of Appeal that personal injury damages should be increased as they are currently too low. An increase of a 100% in more serious cases has been suggested with a lower percentage increase in the less serious cases. Clearly, this will have an impact upon all personal injury claims and indeed many are not now being settled, on the basis that settlement negotiations will commence once the Court of Appeal delivers its Judgment in the cases which it is due to consider and where the Law Commissionís recommendations will also be taken into account.
It is difficult to anticipate how long it will be before the Court of Appeal will be able to deliver a judgment in respect of these cases and consequently at the present time it is difficult to advise personal injury Claimants in relation to the value of their claim insofar as it may be affected by the Judgement of the Court of Appeal after it has considered the Law Commissionís recommendations.
However, it would be an unwise Claimant who would wish to settle at this stage in the knowledge that the damages may be worth substantially more if the Court of Appeal accepts and implements the recommendations of the Law Commission.
In a Legal Journal published recently, the Chairman of the Forum of Insurance Lawyers, an organisation whose members act on behalf of Insurance Companies has suggested that the Court of Appeal should make it clear that any review of personal injury compensation levels will not be retrospective.
If the Court of Appeal were to take up this suggestion, then obviously any claims which arose prior to the decision of the Court would not benefit from any suggested increase in damages. As a lawyer who acts for many people injured in accidents I sincerely hope and indeed expect that the Court will not adopt this suggestion.
On the 28th February 2000 the Court of Appeal began to consider a number of cases with different levels of injury. Judgment will no doubt be reserved and one cannot of course rule out the possibility of an appeal to the House of Lords which will lead to a further inherent delay.
The decision of the Court of Appeal is eagerly awaited by Lawyers and clients alike. It will hopefully go some way towards redressing the current unfair levels of compensation.
Author: Sunil Mohindra
Firm: Maini & Co, Solicitors.
Address: 1 Albert Square, Manchester, M2 6LH
telephone: 0161 827 1600 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lawyers are now legally allowed to offer a no win-no fee service.
In certain types of cases including personal injury and insolvency matters you will now find solicitors willing to take on your case on a "conditional fee" basis.
The English legal system ensures that the winner in a case recovers his costs from the loser and consequently if you succeed the other side has to pay your costs on a "taxed " basis ( ie assessed by the judge). However in view of the contigency fee arrangement your solicitor will normall seek an additional amount ( agreed before the case starts ) from you if you win.
It is all very well for your solicitor to agree not to charge should you lose but you then become liable to pay the other side's costs. Insurance policies are now availaible at a cost of as little as £100 which will cover your opponents costs if you lose. So for cases with a reasonable prospect of success you will not lose money.
This is one of the first steps taken by solicitors to try and give access to the legal system to those of us (middle class) who are not eligible for legal aid and yet do not have deep pockets !