The country's most senior judge has heralded a 10% increase in general damages awards to compensate for the pain, suffering, distress and inconvenience of negligence, defamation and nuisance victims.
The Lord Chief Justice, sitting with the Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuberger, and the Vice-President of the Court of Appeal, Lord Justice Maurice Kay, said that the increase is in line with Sir Rupert Jackson's recent report on civil litigation costs.
The increase had the unanimous backing of the Judicial Executive Board and Lord Judge said it was clear that the Court of Appeal ‘not merely has the power, but a positive duty, to monitor, and where appropriate to alter, the guideline rates for general damages in personal injury actions’.
The increase will also apply to defamation, nuisance and all other torts which cause suffering, distress or inconvenience to individuals and will come into effect on 1 April 2013 at the same time as the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 comes into force.
Referring to cases that are settled, or in which judgment is given, before that date, Lord Judge acknowledged that the change ‘does not achieve perfect justice in every case.’
However, he ruled that setting a firm date for the increase to come into effect had the advantage of ‘simplicity and clarity’ and was in accordance with the recommendations contained in Sir Rupert's final report on civil litigation costs.
General damages - which in personal injury cases are expressed as being awarded for ‘pain, suffering and loss of amenity’ - often make up a substantial proportion of total compensation awards, although maximum sums awarded under this head usually do not exceed £250,000 even in the most serious cases.