What are Special Damages?
I am often asked by clients at the start of a claim how much their claim is worth. The answer is usually, it is too early to value depending on the time that elapsed since the accident happened. More often than not clients will come to me early following an accident and this is helpful when considering rehabilitation needs and assessing what treatment plan is currently in place by any treating doctors, whether that be through the NHS or privately.
My starting point is always the medical evidence.
What are ‘General Damages’?
You may often hear the term General Damages during the course of your claim. This is simply the injuries you have sustained as a result of the accident. In order to value General Damages, medical records will be obtained and you will be required to see one or more independent medical experts depending on the nature of the injury sustained. For example if you have sustained a neck or back injury you may be required to see an orthopaedic consultant. The medical expert is an independent person and is there to provide an opinion on the injury sustained and to provide a prognosis where possible as to when you may recover or make recommendations for treatment. My colleague Chris Bond has recently written a blog on what to expect at a medical examination.
Once I have medical evidence to consider, I will next use the JC Guidelines and case law to attempt to value the claim.
What are the ‘Judicial College (JC) Guidelines?
The JC Guidelines are useful guidance prepared by a panel of Judges when considering the value of the claim for your injuries (General Damages).
As an example if you have suffered a whiplash injury as a result of an accident, the orthopaedic injuries section of the JC Guidelines provides some guidance depending on the severity of the injury.
Where a full recovery is made within three months this will usually warrant up to £2,300.00. Where a full recovery takes place between three months and a year this will warrant in the region of £2,300.00 to £4,080.00. If you have sustained a fracture or dislocation which cause severe immediate symptoms and which may necessitate spinal fusion the claim would be worth in the region of £23,460.00 to £36,120.00.
Personal injury case law
However you are unable to rely on the JC Guidelines alone as each case is unique and symptoms can vary from person to person and whilst one type of treatment may be helpful to one client, it may not be beneficial to another. Therefore I will also look at various case law to consider claims in which people have suffered similar symptoms to see what awards were made. This can be helpful as a comparator alongside the JC Guidelines.
In addition to the injuries sustained in an accident, you may suffer financial losses that arise from the injuries sustained in the accident. Therefore a claim for special damages is also considered alongside the General Damages.
What are Special Damages?
Special damages are any financial losses incurred as a result of the accident – past and future. A schedule of loss is required to detail the losses. Often this will be a provisional schedule of loss which needs to be worked on throughout the claim to include all expenses. This can include the following (although the list is not exhaustive)
- Past loss of earnings
- Future loss of earnings
- Travel expenses
- Past care claim (if someone has cared for you such as a family member of friend)
- Future care claim
- Medical treatment costs including physiotherapy, CBT, scans etc.
- Future treatment costs
Loss of earnings
Often clients will ask me what they need to provide by way of evidence of their loss of earnings. Simply if a client is employed the easiest way to do so is to provide wage slips for the 3 months prior to the accident showing the net earnings per month and then the wage slips during the period of any absence to calculate any loss. Clients will sometimes be paid in full, receive statutory sick pay only or half pay and this will be dependent on their contract of employment and it is helpful to see this.
If you are self-employed I would need to see tax returns for the 3 years prior to the accident. Sometimes a forensic accountant may be required to provide a report.
If you are unable to return to your employment role as a result of the injuries sustained in the accident, you may be able to make a claim for being disadvantaged on the open labour market. This is often described as a Smith and Manchester Award. In addition to this or as an alternative a Loss of a Chance claim could be included if for example you planned to train as a nurse for example and as a result of the injuries you are unable to do so.
How can I help my solicitor to ensure I have the best possibility to recover my financial losses?
Keep a Diary
It is useful to keep a diary entry of all medical appointments attended and any travel expenses incurred. If you have travelled by car, I will claim the mileage and if you have travelled by public transport I will ask my clients to retain train receipts, taxi receipts etc. These are all documentary evidence in support of your expenses.
It is worth keeping receipts for any financial expenses incurred such as receipts for private physiotherapy or treatment.
If you have suffered loss of earnings as result of the accident, it is worth retaining in one place if you are employed, the 3 months wage slips prior to the accident and then all wage slips following the accident during the period of absence. If you are self-employed you will need to show tax returns for the previous 3 years and we may find it easiest to request your HMRC records.
Once I have valued the claim for the injuries and your financial losses I will be in a position to advise on making an offer to settle the claim if appropriate.
If you’ve been involved in an accident and would like more information about making a claim, contact our helpful and experienced Personal Injury team on 0808 271 9413 for further guidance, or request a call back online.