Injury damages 'ignore inflation'

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The Independent Online
STEPHEN WARD

Legal Affairs Correspondent

Damages awarded by courts for serious injuries have fallen, compared to inflation and to libel pay-outs, the Government's law advisers say today.

The Law Commission suggests introducing some way of keeping injury damages high enough, either by setting up a compensation advisory board to fix levels, or by fixing them by law. It rejects any suggestion of letting a jury rather than a judge assess damages in injury cases.

Damages for injuries are set by judges according to an informal tariff, giving the value of loss of an eye, an arm and so on. The maximum, for the most serious physical or mental injuries, is currently only pounds 125,000.

Libel damages are usually set by a jury, and have included pounds 750,000 to the former football manager Graham Souness against the Daily Mirror (reduced by agreement to pounds 100,000) and pounds 1.5m to Lord Aldington against the historian Nikolai Tolstoy.

In their consultation paper published today, the commissioners consider only "non-pecuniary loss" - the amount of compensation payable for the injury, not the loss of earnings of the victim, or the cost of a lifetime of care, which often increase payments to much larger figures.

The report looks at several awards from the 1960s and 1970s for damages in serious injury cases, and updates them for inflation. One award of serious brain damage in 1961 would be worth pounds 171,000 at today's values. Awards for loss of four limbs were awarded damages worth between pounds 164,000 and pounds 219,000 now.

Damages for Injury; Non-Pecuniary Loss. HMSO pounds 15.

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