The Supreme Court's decision will benefit road accident victims

Supreme court front door

Supreme Court justices have unanimously decided in favour of road accident claimants with multiple injuries.

This decision represents a significant win for road accident victims, ensuring many claimants will receive the correct compensation to support their recovery.

How should compensation for road accident victims be calculated?

Historically, the compensation for a personal injury claim was calculated in part by referring to the Judicial College Guidelines for Personal Injury Compensation. The guidelines set out compensation amounts for a wide range of injuries, based on factors like how severe the injury is, and the impact of the claimant’s life.

The guidelines do not consider the context of the accident that caused the injury. This means whether you were injured at work, on the road, or as a result of medical negligence does not affect the injury calculation.

Read more:

How much compensation can I claim for an injury?

2018 changes for road accident victims

In 2018, the Civil Liability Act implemented a lower tariff specifically for whiplash injuries that were caused by a road accident.

The new tariff meant that road accident victims who had suffered only soft tissue whiplash injuries received less compensation that they would have received under the Judicial College guidelines. Insurers argued that this controversial change was necessary to reduce road insurance premiums.

The Supreme Court’s recent decision

Injury lawyers in the cases of Hassam and another v Rabot and another argued that road accident compensation for multiple injuries, or ‘hybrid’ claims, should be calculated with reference to each injury. This would mean that the tariff is applied to whiplash injuries, and the Judicial College guidelines are used to calculate the value of the other injuries.

Lawyers acting for the insurance companies argued that compensation for non-whiplash injuries should only be included if the claimant can prove that the pain, suffering and loss of amenity (PSLA) for their non-whiplash injury is separate from the pain suffered from their whiplash injury.

The Court upheld a lower court decision finding that the pain, suffering and loss of amenity of each injury should be assessed, and then the values added together. The standard multiple injuries discount process should then be applied. The Court found that this principle was consistent with common law.

The Supreme Court also argued that following the insurers approach could create a ‘bizarre’ situation where a victim with both whiplash and non-whiplash injuries would get less compensation than they would have if they had only suffered the non-whiplash injury.

Insurers have argued that the Court’s decision will mean higher premiums for motorists.

What does the Supreme Court’s ruling mean for claimants?

This significant ruling means that road accident victims who have suffered multiple injuries (including both soft tissue injuries like whiplash, and also other non-whiplash physical injuries, such as a broken wrist or ankle) are entitled to receive more compensation than for a whiplash injury alone.

In response to the ruling, Sue Brown, the chair of the Motor Accident Solicitors Society (MASS) said “claimants can now be confident in recovering fair compensation for the non-whiplash injuries they sustain in low value motor accident claims”.

In practice, the Court’s ruling will largely apply to lower-value road accident claims, but the decision will still mean many claimants would be eligible to receive £1,000s in compensation that they would otherwise have been unable to recover.

Read more:

How to claim compensation for a road accident

Chris Salmon, Director

Chris Salmon, Director