Personal injury awards fail to rise as expected

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The Independent Online

Five of the country's leading judges were yesterday accused of failing accident victims by making no increase in the majority of damages payments.

The judges, headed by the Master of the Rolls, Lord Woolf, decided that there should be no increase in awards for pain, suffering and loss of amenity where they are at present below £10,000. These represent the vast majority of claims. In cases above £10,000 there should only be a tapered increase in personal injury damages up to a maximum rise of one-third for those at the highest level of around £100,000.

Lawyers had been expecting a rise of up to 100 per cent after the Law Commission recommended increases across the board in personal injury awards to bring England and Wales more into line with Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Tom Jones, speaking for the solicitors Thompsons who represented one of the leading eight test cases reviewed by the judges said, after the ruling was announced: "It beggars belief. What world are these judges living in to make these kinds of awards? Accident victims throughout England and Wales have been short-changed by a short-sighted Court of Appeal."

Lord Woolf said in the judgment that the court had taken into account "the impact of the level of damages on the level of insurance premiums and on the resources of the NHS".

Mr Jones said: "The Court of Appeal has sided with the insurance industry that in 1998 made a trading profit of £1.2bn. It has put the interests of profit before justice. We are not asking for crazy awards, we do, though, have a right to expect justice and today's judgment is a slap in the face for victims."

The Association of British Insurers said the ruling means the average motor insurance premium would only go up by around 2 per cent. A spokesman said: "It will certainly be much less than was envisaged had the Law Commission report's recommendations on personal injury damages been implemented in full."