Today’s news that draft guidelines on personal injuries awards have been delivered to the Judicial Council will meet with varied responses. The process is intended to lower awards across the board.
On the one hand, there will be those who welcome the development on the basis that higher awards only lead to an unacceptable level in insurance costs. And then there’ll be those who think that anyone who sustains injuries in an accident deserves to be fully compensated.
Where do I stand?
Somewhere in the middle for now.
I’ve always been of the opinion that victims’ needs should be the priority in this discussion. To put it bluntly, no-one sets out to be in an accident! If you’ve been injured, then you should be entitled to expect a decent level of compensation. The problem with guidelines like these is simple – that’s all they are, guidelines. It’s impossible to translate the experience of being in an accident onto a page or even a real-life discussion in the context of a consultation process or radio chat show (and this proposal is likely to crop up on one of those soon).
The whole area of personal injuries is always going to be a controversial one. After all, how do you adequately compensate someone for whiplash? A sprain? A broken bone? Physical injuries are only the start of the issue. Psychological problems are just as debilitating, if not more so. Recovery times vary and it’s impossible to truly know how long victims will have difficulties in the future.
At the moment, awards are based on the Book of Quantum and you can access it here. It sets out details of specific injuries and the approximate sum that should be awarded for each. The current proposal is that the Book should be re-calibrated to conform with international rates of compensation.
Once again however, the Book of Quantum amounts to words on a page. What many people fail to realise is that each submission for compensation must be accompanied by a medical report (or several) that supports the severity of the injury in question. So there is very much a back-up to the claim that isn’t always considered in discussions like this.
The other side of the argument of course is the question of insurance, and unsustainable premiums. It’s a fair argument and there’s certainly a balance to be met but the suggestion that awards currently made should be compared to those around the world is not really the one that’s relevant.
To a victim, the comparison that matters is the one between their health before and after the accident. In any discussion that has to be given priority and everything else should be discussed in the light of a person whose life has changed negatively, through little or no fault of their own.