A new Law Commission report calling for the level of damages for non-pecuniary loss to be doubled in some serious personal injury cases has been hailed as “excellent news” by a leading City lawyer.
The report claims that damages for matters such as pain and suffering and the loss of enjoyment of life are too low and recommends changes to the tariff system developed by judges.
For injuries where the current damages for loss would be more than £3,000, the award should be increased by between 50 and 100 per cent, the report concludes, while damages in the £2,001 to £3,000 range should be upped by between 25 and 50 per cent.
Russell Jones & Walker's personal injury specialist Ian Walker says: “It's very much in line with what we've been saying for years. It's a difficult thing to turn pain and suffering into money, but every civilised country recognises you have to do it.”
However, Walker is sceptical of the chances of the Lord Chancellor's Department adopting the commission's recommendations.
“The only Law Commission recommendation the Government has adopted is the one that has saved them money, so we'll have to see,” he says.
The commission decided there was no correct answer to the question: “How much is an injury worth”. It based its conclusions largely on public opinion gauged from an Office for National Statistics (ONS) survey of 3,639 on the matter.
The ONS research shows that people's opinions about fair compensation generally do not change even when they are reminded that increasing damages will put up insurance premiums.
Motor insurance, the report estimates, will increase by 1.1 to 1.4 per cent if the awards are hiked by 50 per cent, or by 2.3 to 2.8 per cent with a 100 per cent increase. Employers liability insurance would rise by 3.45 to 4.5 per cent with a 50 per cent awards increase and by 6.9 to 9 per cent with a 100 per cent increase.
Law Commissioner Professor Andrew Burrows says: “No amount of money can make up for the suffering caused by an injury, but at least compensation would then be regarded as fair.”