Julie Harris, head of Allan McDougall Solicitors’ Personal Injury team, recently gave a talk to Health & Safety officers of Unite, the UK’s largest union, on the subject of quantifying personal injury claims. Following is a summary of her talk.
The aim of any personal injury claim is to put the injured person in the position they would have been in, had the injury not occurred. The losses incurred by the injured person must flow directly from the accident or breach of duty.
There are various types of claim that can be made:
Often we are claiming for past loss of wages. Typically earnings from the previous six months are taken into account and an average calculated. Sometimes particular circumstances need to be considered, e.g. if the person has missed out on a spell of heavy overtime, a pay rise, bonuses or a specific contract.
If the claim is for future wage loss, consideration would be taken of the injured person’s likely career path and what their earnings would have been, had the accident not occurred. Sometimes we would instruct a vocational consultant. As the person is receiving in a lump sum what they would otherwise have received over many years, deductions are made and these are calculated using actuarial methods approved by the courts.
In some cases we may be dealing with a person’s loss of employability. Sometimes called ‘disadvantage on the labour market’, this is compensation for the fact that should the injured person find themselves out of work, they are no longer able to apply for certain types of role. We have to prove the ongoing injury affects the type of work they’re fit for and there’s some sort of risk that the person may be out of work.
Sometimes there is a claim for services being provided to the injured person. We claim for time spent by family members in caring, washing, helping to dress and so on, and for doing other tasks which the injured person would have undertaken if the accident hadn’t occurred. A services claim may be modest – few hundred pounds, or can add tens of thousands of pounds to the value of a claim. It all depends upon the individual circumstances.
We may also be claiming for pension loss. This is calculated using actuarial assumptions. We have to recover details of the occupational pension scheme, and a lump sum loss is calculated.
Depending on the case, it can be a straightforward or very complex process. We would often appoint appropriate medical experts to report on the injuries. While injuries may appear to be similar, the sums awarded can vary significantly, depending on the circumstances of each individual case.
Often we do not accept the first offer of compensation, sometimes rejecting several offers and negotiating until we are satisfied that we are recovering appropriate compensation for our client.