The Judicial College Guidelines: A Comparison

Introduction

The 14th edition of the Judicial College Guidelines for the Assessment of General Damages in Personal Injury Cases has now been published. In this article, as we have done previously, in editions 20 and 114, we compare the previous edition to the new edition.

Preliminary points

Firstly, it should be reiterated that the Guidelines are only guidance, they are not law. They can be departed from if the circumstances of the case so require. In Cameron v Vinters Defence Systems Ltd Holland J noted,6 at [7], that the starting point is the Guidelines, but that they can be departed from with justification. Accordingly, the circumstances of the case must be regarded as the ultimate determinative factor in any award of damages.

Secondly, each subsequent edition of the Guidelines reflects inflationary changes, any new decisions on quantum and any changes in policy. Ordinarily, therefore, in each subsequent edition, the figures increase. As there has been two years between the publication of the 13th and the 14th edition, the increases will reflect the changes over this period. It also continues to include an additional column of figures indicating the 10% uplift in general damages, as was recommended by Sir Rupert Jackson and endorsed by the Court of Appeal in of Simmons v Castle.7

We will go on to compare the 13th edition and the 14th edition figures below for the relevant disease brackets. Each edition has a column which does not include the 10% uplift and a column which does. We have provided a final column which calculates the percentage and pounds difference between each edition’s figures (including the 10% uplift) at the highest end of the award for each disease bracket. We will then go on to compare the percentage change with the current retail price index of 274.7 (2.7%).

Comparison Between the Guidelines: Asbestos Related Diseases

The Guidelines for asbestos related diseases appear in chapter 6(C). The table below shows a comparison between the previous edition and the new edition:

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The following observations may be made. Firstly, there have been no policy changes to these categories; the brackets have risen with inflation alone. It should also be noted that the 10% uplift in damages does not apply to mesothelioma cases due to recoverability of success fees and insurance premiums remaining intact.

Additionally there has been no change to the bracket structure in the 13th edition with the consolidation of pleural thickening and asbestosis in one bracket remaining. The bracket is still divided into two, based on the level of respiratory disability. Meanwhile, the narrative accompanying the two conditions remains the same other than in 6(C)(d) whereby it states the level of award will be influenced by, not only by the choice between awards on a final or provisional basis but also by the extent of anxiety.

Comparison Between the Guidelines: Asthma

The Guidelines for asthma appear in chapter 6(D). The below table shows a comparison between the previous edition and the new edition:

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There has been no change to the narrative of this bracket and the figures reflect inflationary changes. It is noticeable that the increase for the mildest form of asthma is almost double the current rate of inflation at 5.1%, meaning the highest award for bracket (E) is now £4,520.

Comparison Between the Guidelines: Deafness/Tinnitus

The Guidelines for deafness/tinnitus appear in chapter 5(B)(d). The following table shows a comparison between the previous edition and the new edition:

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As with the previous comparison, there have been no significant changes to this category, with the brackets simply reflecting inflationary changes. There has been no change to the narrative text accompanying the brackets. The highest award now in the case of severe tinnitus and hearing loss is £39,940. Meanwhile, the highest award in the case of slight hearing loss without tinnitus, or slight tinnitus without hearing loss is £6,140. The highest percentage change calculated was for the mild tinnitus with some hearing loss bracket.

Comparison Between the Guidelines: Back Injuries

The Guidelines for back injuries appear in chapter 7(B). The following table shows a comparison between the previous edition and the new edition:

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In edition 114, we reported a significant change in bracket 7(B)(c)(iii) for minor back injuries. The 12th edition of the JC guidelines, stipulated that a full recovery was a period of a few days, or a few weeks or a few months. In the 13th edition, full recovery was redefined to within 3 months. As can be seen in the table above, this change has been carried over into the 14th edition, while the extent to which ongoing symptoms are only of a minor nature has been added as a justification for awards in the minor injuries bracket. The highest award (including the 10% uplift) is now £2,150 which is an increase of 4.7% from the 13th edition. Of all the disease brackets analysed in this feature, (A)(i) yields the highest potential award of £141,150. Although the (C)(ii) bracket shows a difference between the two latest JC Guidelines editions of £100, it does not show the lowest percentage change (4.7%) of all brackets analysed, which was, in fact, 4.5%. 

Comparison Between the Guidelines: Dermatitis

The Guidelines for dermatitis appear in chapter 12. The following table shows a comparison between the previous edition and the new edition:

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In the 14th edition, short-lived aggravation of a pre-existing skin condition was added to the 12(C) bracket, which has seen a percentage increase in awards of 4.6%.

Comparison Between the Guidelines: Psychiatric Damage General

The Guidelines for back injuries appear in chapter 4(A). The following table shows a comparison between the previous edition and the new edition:

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For general psychiatric damage, factors to be taken into account in valuing claims now include the injured person's ability to cope with life, education and work, with education being the sole addition.

Comparison Between the Guidelines: Vibration White Finger (VWF) and/or Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS)

The Guidelines for vibration white finger (VWF) and/or hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) appear in chapter 7(J). The following table shows a comparison between the previous edition and the new edition:

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Again, there have been no significant changes to this category; the brackets reflect inflationary changes. In addition there have been no changes to the narrative text accompanying the brackets. The highest guideline award now in the most serious cases is £33,700. Meanwhile the lowest award in a minor case is now £2,390, without the 10% uplift.

Comparison Between the Guidelines: Other Diseases 

The following tables show a comparison between the previous edition and the new edition for the remaining brackets relevant to disease litigation. These tables have been provided for quick reference purposes as the only changes have been inflationary.

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N.B. The Guidelines state that the presence of an overlapping psychiatric injury is commonplace in chronic pain cases.

Conclusion and Practical Handling Points

As was the case in the 13th edition of the JC Guidelines, there have been modest increases in the 14th edition, but this has been beyond the rate of inflation. Further, the percentage change of RPI over the past 12 months has been 3.9%. The 14th edition continues to separate the figures between ‘pre-uplift’ and ‘uplift’ awards because the former awards are likely to remain relevant throughout the lifetime of this edition.

Despite relatively few changes in the 14th edition of the Guidelines, the authors do note that there is to be a thorough review of the Guidelines by the editorial team over the next two years.