After suffering a severe spinal cord injury you may have concerns about finances and worried about how you will afford to make changes to your accommodation, buy equipment to help you live your life and if necessary buy a new home. Clients sometimes ask us ‘How much money am I likely to get if I bring a claim?’ As such, we thought it would be helpful in today’s blog to set out below the way in which damages or compensation is calculated.
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An offer of financial compensation following a spinal injury that was not your fault is intended to compensate for the pain and suffering you have endured and loss of amenity (i.e. loss of enjoyment of life) caused by the accident or incident. It is assessed by comparing cases similar to yours where awards have been made. Valuing a claim is not an exact science, however it is possible to make a reasonable assessment of the likely value of your claim.
Your compensation award is made up of two parts. The first part is in relation to the injury part of your claim (General Damages) and the second part is in relation to the financial losses that you have suffered as a result of your injuries (Special Damages).
GENERAL DAMAGES - Injuries
In relation to the general damages part of your claim, you are entitled to an award for pain, suffering and loss of amenity which will compensate you for your physical and psychological injuries and the general impact of the accident upon your lifestyle. This aspect of the claim is valued by comparing the injuries that you sustained, (as set out in independent expert medical reports which we obtain on your behalf), to the injuries suffered by you in previous reported cases where similar injuries have been sustained.
How will your injuries be valued?
The claim for pain suffering loss and amenity is calculated taking into account the following factors;
- The nature of your injuries and the severity of them and also the length of time they take to recover
- The effect your injuries have had, or continue to have on your life, such as any ongoing pain or altered sensation, the impact on mobility, inability to carry out your hobbies and any continence issues
- The future implications of your injuries
- The Judicial College (JC) Guidelines (these used to be called the Judicial Studies Board, or JSB Guidelines). The JC Guidelines are used by all personal injury practitioners and Judges as a starting point for assessing a claim. The Guidelines contain brackets of awards in relation to certain types of injury and for a spinal cord injury. This could be in excess of £100,000.
- Past case law where Claimant’s have suffered similar injuries to you. Obviously no two cases are the same and therefore the cases are used as guidance only.
The Claimant is also entitled to claim for past and future financial losses and expenses which are presented in the form of a schedule. These are also sometimes referred to as out of pocket expenses. These include things such as the cost of care, loss of earnings, therapies, travel expenses, private medical expenses, specially adapted accommodation and vehicles and the cost of aids and equipment, such as a wheelchair.
It is for the Claimant to prove firstly that the loss or expense was incurred and, secondly, that the loss or expense was caused by the accident as opposed to unrelated factors.
This is generally a matter for documentary evidence, for example pay slips to prove loss of earnings, or receipts to prove the cost of items purchased. The second issue is generally a matter for medical evidence and we rely upon the medical experts to confirm that the loss or expense was reasonable and was caused by the accident, as opposed to unrelated factors.
This article forms part of a series written for the Spinal Injuries Association (SIA) ‘Ask the experts’ blog. As a Gold Corporate Partner of the SIA you can rest assured that we are legal experts in spinal cord injuries. We have many connections in the Spinal Injury world and have a great deal of experience and success in gaining appropriate compensation for our clients who have sustained a spinal cord injury. Follow our #spinalinjuryjourney on Twitter.