Guidelines for general damages: “In recent years, any change to the recorded margin of awards has been as the result of inflation”

Lord Justice Waller made the above comment in 2008 in his foreword to the 9th edition of the judicial guidelines for awards of general damages for personal injuries. Most editions have largely followed this methodology and presented updated guidelines for awards, increased by applicable prices inflation since the previous edition. This is expected to continue with the 13th edition, which is due to be published later this month.

The current edition – the 12th – of the Judicial College’s Guidelines for the Assessment of General Damages in Personal Injury Cases was published in September 2013, several months into the Jackson reforms of April that year. Those reforms required a ten per cent increase in general damages for ‘new’ cases, so as to compensate for the loss of recoverable success fees. The 12th edition therefore included a second column of guideline figures which reflected the ten percent increase (where applicable).

Publication of the 13th edition of the guidelines is imminent and should happen later this month. Prices inflation since September 2013 has been relatively modest and hence fairly low increases commensurate with that are to be expected. It is very likely that increases set out in the new edition will reflect aggregate RPI over the last two years, even though the CPI index is now generally the preferred measure of prices inflation in the UK economy.

Given that many pre-Jackson claims are still outstanding, the 13th edition will again include two columns to cover appropriate guideline levels of awards in pre- and post-Jackson cases. Presumably, the need for these two columns will reduce significantly after the three year anniversary of the reforms is reached in April 2016, with limitation then biting on older claims.

In respect of mesothelioma claims, success fees remain recoverable for the time being and thus these cases should not attract the ten per cent increase in awards for general damages that applies for all other injury claims. This is an important point and worth emphasising. It remains to be seen if Sir Rupert Jackson might do that in his foreword the new edition.

About the Author

akAlistair Kinley is BLM’s Director of Policy & Government Affairs.

Alistair is responsible for BLM’s engagement with government departments and regulators on policy and public affairs issues and consultations affecting the firm and its customers. He coordinated BLM’s market-facing activities in connection with the Insurance Act 2015 and the consultations which preceded its publication and introduction in Parliament.

He is a member of the Civil Justice Council (CJC), a regular speaker and experienced commentator on legal and procedural reforms and was a contributing editor to the Law Society’s Litigation Funding Handbook (September 2014).

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