Julie Hatton, Partner and clinical negligence specialist at Coodes Solicitors, explains five factors that go into calculating how much a personal injury claim is worth.
One of the first questions many of my clients ask me is “how much is my claim worth?” No decent personal injury or clinical negligence lawyer will promise they can secure a particular amount for a client. Every case is different and many considerations go into determining the damages that are eventually awarded.
However, it can be helpful to understand some of the factors that contribute to the value of a personal injury or medical negligence claim.
Compensation awarded following a personal injury clinical negligence claim includes general damages and special damages. General damages relate to the impact of the injury and include something known as ‘pain, suffering and loss of amenity’. Special damages cover financial loss and expenses with a known monetary value. These could include costs for repairing a damaged vehicle or medical treatment, for example.
The court will take the following factors into account when assessing the value of your personal injury claim.
1. The type of injury suffered
If your personal injury claim is successful, you will be awarded a lump sum for what is known as ‘pain, suffering and loss of amenity’. The court will aim for a sum which reflects a fair, reasonable and just figure for the injuries and their consequences. Therefore, the type and severity of injury you have suffered will be an important factor when the court assesses your claim.
Although every case is unique, the courts use the Judicial Studies Board Guidelines to categorise injuries. These classify injuries from minor injuries, which involve recovering within three months, to life changing injuries, such as those involving paralysis.
For minor injuries, the courts generally award up to £2,090 where there is complete recovery within three months. Someone who has suffered paralysis or a brain injury, however, may be awarded a lump sum of more than £40,000.
As well as using the guidelines, the courts will consider damages previously awarded for similar injuries to attribute a value to your claim.
It is worth noting that from 31 May 2021 onwards, changing legislation means that claims for minor whiplash injuries should be submitted via a new portal. These claims are now valued through a new tariff system and are limited to £250 for injuries lasting under three months up to a maximum of £4,215 for an injury that lasts for two years.
2. A pre-existing injury or conditions
When the courts assess the award for pain, suffering and loss of amenity, they may also need to consider the impact of a pre-existing disability or injury. If you have had an accident that has aggravated or in any way affected a previous injury, this may impact on the damages awarded.
Cases involving a pre-existing injury are often more challenging to value. Medical evidence is likely to be even more important in securing damages.
3. Evidence and statements from experts and witnesses
Evidence is essential in any personal injury or clinical negligence claim. In the event of a road traffic accident, for example, a witness statement may provide the vital evidence that you were not at fault. If you have suffered medical negligence, in a hospital or GP surgery, an expert report from a medical professional is likely to be crucial to your case.
If you are seeking compensation, you will need to work with your lawyer to ensure you get the evidence you need to support your claim. This could include you providing payslips, earnings details and employment records, for example.
4. Your expenses to date
The damages you are awarded will also cover some of the financial losses you have suffered to date. These might include the loss of use of a vehicle, inability to work and the loss of a holiday. The courts will add interest to these past expenses.
Your lawyer should spend time thoroughly reviewing any loss of expenses you have incurred as a result of your injury.
5. The likely future impact on your finances
The purpose of personal injury compensation is, as far as possible, to get you back to the position you would be in had you not had the accident. Compensation may therefore also reflect the future impact of your injuries on your finances.
Physical or psychological injuries may have left you unable to work and loss of mobility may mean you have to move or adapt your home. These future losses should be included in the damages you are awarded.
In certain circumstances the court may award what are known as ‘provisional damages’. These are awarded when there is proof that, as a result of the accident, there is a chance that the injured person will develop a disease or suffer serious deterioration in their physical or mental condition in the future.
Putting together a claim following an accident or medical negligence involves a forensic exercise. You will need a highly experienced lawyer to manage your case. Instructing a specialist legal expert who understands the claims process will give you the best chance of securing the compensation you deserve to get your life back on track.
For more information and advice on a clinical negligence or personal injury claim, contact Julie Hatton in the Personal Injury team on 01326 214 036 or firstname.lastname@example.org.