I find myself having the same conversation over and over again. This time it was in the MOT centre where my car, against all the odds, got through its third MOT in a row - on this occasion only needing a headlight bulb changed.
I was discussing with my mechanic how damages are awarded for personal injury claims in England and Wales. Everyone seems to have an opinion on the subject, which may not be so surprising when barely a week goes by without a headline (often with an associated tone of outrage) about how so-and-so has issued a writ claiming tens if not hundreds of thousands of pounds in damages following an accident.
Of course people take notice of these headlines and it is understandably tempting to react with shock to the figures being talked about, especially when they're juxtaposed against often mundane accident circumstances and ostensibly modest injuries. Delve a bit deeper though, and it's not quite the bonanza it might appear at first glance.
The purpose of compensation is to return claimants to the position they were in before an accident occurred. In this context, a claim for damages comprises two parts; an award for general damages for the pain, suffering and loss of amenity caused by an injury, and an award for special damages covering all expenses and losses a claimant has reasonably incurred as a direct result of the injuries they sustained in, for example, a work accident.
When people are awarded large six or seven figure sums for damages, it’s more than likely that the majority of those damages have been awarded in respect of the expenses and losses that have been incurred and will need to be incurred in the future as a direct result of a claimant's injuries.
These have been calculated by the Court and represent anything but a windfall figure to an injured person. The award of damages is made so that the injured person can pay for specific expenses such as the cost of aids and equipment, travelling expenses, care needs, the cost of altering property or whatever expenses it might be that they have incurred and will incur because of the accident.
The purpose of the award is that, after such expenses have been paid, no further funds should be available from the settlement. There is no extra amount for a nice holiday or to decorate a claimant's home.
The award for general damages often pales in significance to the special damages award. Although it is also compensatory, you may ask how money can put someone in the position they were in before an accident occurred? The simple answer is that it can’t. But this is the only way a Court can possibly account for the injuries a claimant has suffered, and the effect it has had on their ability to enjoy their lives. Those claimants I advise are often shocked that awards for general damages are significantly lower than the awards made in different jurisdictions such as the United States.
The next time you read about a sum being claimed by an injured claimant, spare a thought for the potential losses and expenses that claimant is likely to face. Bear in mind also that those expenses would otherwise have to be funded by the state or, in the worst case scenario, would not be available at all.
For a free consultation about a work accident compensation claim, call our No Win No Fee Personal Injury Lawyers 24 hours 7 days a week on freephone 0800 916 9046 or contact us online and we will get back to you.