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New guidelines for damages in lower value personal injury claims.

The 20th September saw the publication of the new and updated Judicial College (formerly Judicial Studies Board) Guidelines for the Assessment of General Damages in Personal Injury Cases (11th Edition).

Concerns had previously been raised about the lack of detailed guidance in relation to injuries which typically attract relatively modest awards. For example, the lowest guideline bracket for minor back injuries (where full recovery had been made without surgery ‘within about two years’) in the previous (10th) Edition of the Guidelines provided for awards ‘up to £5,150’. That bottom bracket was of limited assistance in the all too common case of a whiplash type injury to the back that resolved within a few months, or even one year.

Guidance was also limited when assessing the quantum of ‘travel anxiety’ that was associated with minor physical injuries but fell short of symptoms sufficient to satisfy the gateway criteria for diagnosis of a recognisable psychiatric injury. Such injury was often quantified by reference to guidance for ‘minor’ psychiatric damage which provided that “Awards have been made below [£1,000] in cases of temporary ‘anxiety'”.

These issues have been addressed in the 11th Edition of the Guidelines by the introduction of a new chapter on ‘minor injuries’ and breaking down the bottom brackets for a number of common types of injury, including the bottom brackets for neck and back injuries.

The new minor injuries chapter deals with injuries where there is a complete recovery within three months and the injuries are not otherwise referred to in other chapters. Specific reference is made to travel anxiety (when associated with minor physical injuries), which may be included within the minor injuries chapter even if symptoms persist for more than three months. The quantum guidance is broken down into cases where a complete recovery is achieved within a week, 28 days or three months. It is noteworthy that minor injuries where there is a complete recovery within 28 days will justify awards between £500 and £1,000. That guidance should provide much needed clarity for Judges when considering allocation, with the likely result that claims involving such injuries will be allocated to the small claims track.

The same is true of minor neck and back injuries where recovery is made within a period of a few days, or a few weeks, or a few months. The new lower bracket for both types injury provides for awards of between a few hundred pounds and £1,500.

The new Guidelines also sharpen focus on those aspects of an injury that are most likely to affect the value of the award. For example, whilst it is noted that the duration of symptoms is always important, the level of award for minor neck injuries will also be influenced by factors such as the impact of the injury on ability to work and function in everyday life, the extent of treatment, the need to take medication and the presence of secondary symptoms such as headaches. The additional guidance will undoubtedly prove useful when determining the correct award within individual guideline brackets.

November 4, 2012 · Editorial Team · Comments Closed
Posted in: Cases