PI Guidelines: new edition
The full note introducing the 11th edition of the Guidelines for Assessment of General Damages
The 11th edition of the Guidelines for the Assessment of General Damages in Personal Injury Cases was published by Oxford University Press in September 2012.
The percentage increase in damages ranges up to around 9%. Practitioners should be aware of a number of changes particularly in relation to guidance on small awards.
A new chapter 13 is introduced in relation to "minor injuries", and a figure is given of £1,750 where there is a complete recovery within three months (unless there is significant pain or multiple injuries). The 10th edition by contrast had a figure for minor soft tissue and whiplash injuries where there is a full recovery, between a few weeks and a year, of £875 to £2,850.
The introduction to the new guidelines by the Hon Mr Justice Burnett (1 August 2012) informs readers that the guidelines seek to respond to concerns raised in the past about the relative paucity of guidance on small injury awards by introducing a chapter on "minor injuries", and also by breaking down the broad bottom brackets of a number of common types of injury. The commentary goes on to state that district judges regularly award damages of a few hundred pounds in cases of minor transient injury.
A new chapter is also introduced on chronic pain, and a short section on general damages for pain, suffering and loss of amenity before death (chapter 1). A figure is given of between £1,000 and £2,000 for immediate unconsciousness, or unconsciousness following shortly after injury, and death occurring within a week.
There are Scottish authorities which would tend to suggest higher figures for relatively minor injuries, particularly in relation to whiplash, than in the new guidance. For example, in Hunter v Niemiec (GWD 30 April 2010, no 241) Sheriff Platt awarded a self-employed delivery driver, aged 24 at proof, £3,000 where the injury to his cervical spine resolved over five to six months. He was a sportsman of the highest calibre and the injury had a severe impact during the above period on his sporting activities.
The figure for minor injuries of a few hundred pounds to £500 for a recovery within seven days would also appear to be at odds with the dicta of Sheriff Principal Macphail in Purves v Joydisk Ltd (2003 SLT (Sh Ct) 64). The sheriff principal held that £750 was the smallest amount which should be awarded for injury to feelings, and referred to a judgment of Doshoki v Draeger Ltd before the employment appeal tribunal where Bell J, who was involved in compiling the then current edition of the Guidelines for the Assessment of General Damages, stated that “In terms of personal injury claims, £750 would nowadays be the minimum, or very close to the minimum, award for the very slightest physical injury deserving of damages at all”.
Finally, the guidelines refer to the Court of Appeal decision in Simmons v Castle  EWCA Civ 1039. The Court of Appeal stated there would be an across-the-board increase in general damages of 10%, coming into effect on 1 April 2013, to take account of legislative changes following the recommendations of Sir Rupert Jackson in his Final Report on Civil Litigation Costs. Presumably this increase will be reflected in the next edition of the Judicial College Guidelines (as happened after Heil v Rankin). The Scottish courts will be left to consider the impact of such an increase on awards of solatium. It would clearly raise questions of parity and fairness between England and Scotland if Scottish claimants had a deduction of 10% off guideline awards.
David Sandison, Lawford Kidd Solicitors; member of the Civil Justice Committee of the Law Society of Scotland