By: 26 March 2024
Supreme court’s ‘right call’ on compensation for mixed injuries

Personal injury lawyers have won a huge victory in getting more compensation for injuries beyond whiplash.

The supreme court has rejected insurers’ appeals in cases about hybrid claims, allowing people to claim for other injuries alongside whiplash. This clarifies a gap left by the Civil Liability Act 2018, which only covered whiplash. The ruling aligns with common law principles for assessing non-whiplash compensation. Thousands of cases could be affected. The Association of British Insurers’ (ABI) wanted stricter rules, but the court chose a fairer approach.

 

Matthew Maxwell Scott, executive director of the Association of Consumer Support Organisations (ACSO), said:

“This looks the right call, and is a sensible middle ground which protects consumers both as injured parties and as policyholders. The insurer case always looked weak, as the wording of the Civil Liability Act is unambiguous and if they want this changed it is to parliament they must look, not to the courts.

“It’s good news that the wheels of justice have moved quickly here. With the judgment affecting hundreds of thousands of people each year, the huge backlog of cases can now start to be cleared and people get the compensation they are due. Moreover, insurers will be able to reserve more accurately and use this to bring average premiums down from their record highs.

“It is now down to the wider sector to work together to agree the frameworks which will allow claims to settle quickly. Importantly, it will also take many potential claims out a courts system which is struggling badly.”

Despite this victory, he also cautioned against complacency, highlighting insurers’ persistent efforts to curtail general damages in lower-value personal injury cases. He urged continued vigilance in defending consumers’ rights to fair compensation.

 

“This looks the right call, and is a sensible middle ground which protects consumers both as injured parties and as policyholders.” 

 

Stuart Hanley, head of legal practice at Minster Law, echoed similar sentiments;

“We are pleased to note that the supreme court has taken a balanced and pragmatic approach which should bring clarity, certainty, consistency, and fairness to the valuation of mixed injuries.

“This eagerly awaited decision should both allow stayed cases to quickly progress and speed up settlement of new claims, which will ultimately benefit both consumers and insurers and in turn hopefully help deliver the streamlined process the government whiplash reforms promised but have so far only delivered in part.”

 

The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) also lauded the supreme court’s judgment. APIL secretary Brett Dixon commented;

“The erosion of damages for personal injuries has been contained to whiplash, for now. The Civil Liability Act was only ever about whiplash.

“The supreme court is clear that the principle of full compensation is maintained for the other, non-tariff injuries. This is the final word on the issue, giving injured people and their representatives some much-needed clarity.

“A play by insurers to reduce injured people’s compensation to just the whiplash tariff payment would have been a huge affront to the principle of full and fair compensation had it succeeded. It would have allowed insurers to circumvent their responsibilities to victims of negligence beyond what had already been decided by the Government when it introduced the whiplash tariff.”

The supreme court agreed with a previous ruling by the court of appeal last year that people with mixed injuries should receive the whiplash tariff payment plus any additional payment for the non-whiplash injury, but that the court should then take a ‘step back’ and make a deduction for any overlap to avoid overcompensation.

“While today’s result is positive, we maintain that the whiplash tariff itself is grossly unfair. The language used by the supreme court highlighted that the tariff amount was not full compensation and was, in fact, under-compensating.”

“Common sense and the common law have prevailed.”

 

Sue Brown, chair of the Motor Accident Solicitors Society (MASS), went on to say;

“Common sense and the common law have prevailed.

“The supreme court has now unanimously upheld the judgment of the majority in the court of appeals and confirmed that nothing in the Civil Liability Act 2018 effects a change in the assessment of damages for non-whiplash injuries.  Those injuries should continue to be assessed in accordance with the common law and the principles set out in in Sadler v Filipiak, the only differences in claims including whiplash injuries being that no deduction can be made from the whiplash tariff damages, and that any deduction should not take the overall amount of damages below the amount at which the non-whiplash injury has been valued by the court.

“So while the level of tariff damages remains far from fair, claimants can now be confident in recovering fair compensation for the non-whiplash injuries they sustain in low value motor accident claims.

With uncertainty and delays having plagued very many claimants waiting for a fairer settlement following motor accidents, we now hope that the judicial system can begin working through the backlog of cases and that justice can finally be dispensed.”

 

The unanimous verdict by the supreme court reaffirms the principles of fairness and justice in the evaluation of personal injury claims. While challenges persist, this decision marks a significant milestone in safeguarding consumers’ rights and ensuring compensation for all injuries sustained in motor accidents. As the legal landscape evolves, continued collaboration will remain essential in upholding the integrity of the claims process and protecting the interests of injured parties.

 

Image: Brett Dixon, secretary of APIL.
Emma Cockings
Emma is a content editor for Claims Media. Emma is a experienced writer with a background in client-centric personal injury for a major firm. She has attended and reported on multiple brokerage events throughout her career.