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Detailed Practice Notes written by our Professional Support Lawyers, guiding you through the key issues in each topic.
General damages are those damages which cannot be mathematically assessed at the date of trial. The predominant head of general damages in personal injury claims is pain, suffering and loss of amenity although a number of other heads of general damages must be considered.
Pain, suffering and loss of amenity (PSLA)
A claimant is entitled to recover damages for any pain, suffering and loss of amenity caused by the accident. The pain and suffering element of the award compensates the claimant for all past, present and future physical and psychiatric symptoms. In addition, the claimant is also entitled to a sum to compensate him for any loss of amenity. This latter element of the PSLA award aims to compensate the claimant for loss of enjoyment of life or a reduction in ability to perform everyday tasks.
The best starting point for assessing damages for pain, suffering and loss of amenity is by reference to the Judicial Studies Board Guidelines which sets out financial brackets for common types of injury. Precedent case law should be then be relied upon to support the valuation of PSLA. When assessing damages for pain, suffering and loss of amenity consideration must also be given to whether the claimant had a pre-existing disability or whether the injury accelerated a pre-existing condition. The claimant's age and sex may also effect the level of award.
Handicap on the open labour market - Smith v Manchester award
A Claimant is entitled to recover damages for a handicap on the open labour market when he can show that as a result of his injuries he is at a real risk that he will be out of work and find it harder to obtain similar employment. This award is made in addition to any claim for future loss of earnings although reference must now be made to the new Ogden tables which now factor in the potential of a reduced future loss of earning capacity due to a disability.
Loss of congenial employment
A claimant is entitled to recover damages for loss of congenial employment if he can show that he has been forced to give up an employment as a result of his injuries which he genuinely enjoyed. This head of loss will normally arise in instances where the claimant's pre-accident job was of an unusual nature although the claimant need only prove that he took a great deal of satisfaction and fulfilment from his work.
Other heads of general damages
Other heads of general damages which the claimant may be entitled to recover damages for include:
loss of use
The aim of this head of loss is to compensate the claimant for the loss of use of items damaged in the index accident. This predominantly will cover the loss of use of a motor vehicle.
Loss of enjoyment
This head of loss can cover such matters as the loss of enjoyment of a holiday or the loss of leisure time.
Loss of prospects
A claimant is entitled to recover damages under this head of loss if he can show, for example, that he has lost marriage prospects or that his marriage has broken down.
General damages in fatal accident claims
Where a claim has been brought on behalf of a deceased claimant by his estate, a claim for PSLA is still recoverable if it can be shown that there was a period of survival between the index accident and death. The claimant must show that there was a period when the deceased was conscious and that the deceased suffered. Any dependants and other linked parties can also make a claim for bereavement damages.
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