As we noted last week on the BLM twitter feed, the 15th edition of the Judicial College Guidelines for General Damages for Personal Injuries has just been published. The main headline is the consistent application of an increase of close to 7% to the figures in the last edition in order to allow for inflation.
The text of the new edition also refers in two places to the proposed whiplash reforms, the statutory framework for which is found in part 1 of the Civil Liability Act 2018. The first is Lambert J’s introduction, which notes that the detail of the reforms and associated secondary regulations (including the proposed damages tariff) has yet to be finalised, that the precise date of implementation is uncertain and that April 2020 appears to be the current government’s intention in that respect. The second is text (reproduced below) inserted immediately after the heading “Orthopaedic Injuries” at chapter 7 of the Guidelines. This new paragraph serves both as a pragmatic summary of the scope of the proposed reforms to whiplash general damages and as a fair reflection of the status quo.
“The Civil Liability Act 2018 (‘the Act’) received royal assent in December 2018. Part 1 of the Act provides for the introduction of a fixed tariff scheme for general damages awards for whiplash injuries (and including minor psychological injuries) lasting for up to two years as a consequence of a road traffic accident. At the time of publication of the 15th edition of these Guidelines, the provisions of Part 1 of the Act are not yet in force. The current intended implementation date is April 2020. Whenever in fact implemented, it is understood the new tariff regime will apply only to accidents occurring after that date. The guidelines set out below will then cease to apply to those cases caught by the Act. A definition of injuries will be contained in the Act and any accompanying Regulations. The tariff will not apply to claims brought by motorcyclists or their passengers, cyclists, pedestrians, or other road users who are not using a mechanically propelled motor vehicle. Readers will need to refer to the legislation and Regulations to determine whether and to what extent individual cases come within the scope of the new legislation and for details of the applicable tariff.”
Previous editions have often seen a handful of guideline figures increasing at greater percentages than the overall inflation figure. That does not appear to the case this time round, save for the single example of very serious leg injuries (category 7(L)(b)(ii)) where the upper figure moves from £74,150 to £85,600 (an increase of just over 15%). In addition, it should be noted that there is some re-categorisation of finger and thumb injuries (within category 7(I)) which makes direct comparison of with earlier guideline levels slightly less straightforward than would otherwise be the case.
Written by Alistair Kinley, director of policy and government affairs and Sophie Houghton, professional support lawyer, BLM