The 15th Edition of the Judicial College (JC) Guidelines for the Assessment of Damages in Personal Injury Cases was released last week (26 November 2019) offering updated guidance for the courts, personal injury practitioners and insurers in assessing and valuing general damages in personal injury cases.
The JC Guidelines serve as a starting point for the assessment of damages in all types of personal injury cases. In claims arising out of assaults and sexual abuse the most relevant chapter remains Chapter 4 dealing with damages for psychiatric and psychological damage.
As one would expect, the financial brackets for psychiatric injuries have been revised upwards across the board (please click here to view tables). Insurers would do well to build these slight increases in to reserves for new and existing abuse cases.
The 15th Edition contains the following new guidance which is directly applicable to claims arising out of childhood abuse:
‘Awards should take into account not only the psychiatric effects of the abuse on the injured party but also the immediate effects of the abuse at the time that it was perpetrated, including feelings of degradation. Aggravated damages may be appropriate. Cases of prolonged and frequent physical and sexual abuse of a child over many years by a person in a position of trust, involving penetrative violation, are likely to fall into (A)(a) or (B)(a) and reflect aggravated damages, leading to an award towards the top end of the bracket’ [emphasis added].
The 15th Edition repeats guidance from previous editions that cases arising out of abuse which breaches parental, family or other positions of trust will tend to fall towards the upper end of the appropriate bracket.
The most illuminating section of the 15th edition is Christina Lambert QCs introduction which offers a number of interesting comments and hints for the future of personal injury. In relation to claims for sexual abuse, Lambert states:
“In the next edition we will consider whether it is appropriate and practical to create a separate sub- category of psychiatric injury reflecting awards made to victims of sexual abuse. Our decision will depend in large part upon the reported decisions on such injuries over the life of this edition. It seems to us, however, that there are strong arguments for creating such a sub-category if at all possible, given the particular features which often arise in such cases such as breach of trust, the inability to form or maintain emotional and sexual relationships, the impact on education, and the effect on the victim of the, often, long interval before the fact of the abuse is reported.”
Lambert’s comments echo the recommendations made by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) in its recent investigation report on Accountability and Reparation. IICSA recommended that the Judicial College should consider providing clearer guidance on the damages appropriate for civil claims arising out of sexual abuse. The full recommendations are considered in more detail in our previous legal update here. With IICSA and the Judicial College seemingly on the same page, change is surely afoot.
In the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact the Plexus Abuse and Sensitive Claims Team for help and advice on assessing quantum in sensitive claims.
To view/download this Legal Update as a PDF please click here.
Kate Prestidge, Partner
T: 01245 951 726 | M: 07790 341 706 | E: email@example.com
Marlon Ellis, Solicitor
T: 01245 951 715 | M: 07779 437 367 | E: firstname.lastname@example.org