As I have observed from time to time, a previously common, now almost universal sentiment of disappointment is expressed by clients when advised as to the likely scale of compensation they would be awarded by the courts for their pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life due to negligently caused injury.
I have observed elsewhere the relative lack of growth in the sums awarded for such component to claims, as a consequence of legislative limits or deductibles via our Civil Liability Act (“CLA”) and relatively conservatism by our Court’s in their assessments.
Once again, as I have stated (ranted?) elsewhere, I am still waiting to see any evidence of how such CLA provisions have a corresponding benefit to the wider community, justifying their impact on claimants.
Bracket creep in the CLA deductible now means that claims of blatant, negligently caused harm causing serious enduring suffering face the very real possibility of entitling the victim to no compensation at all, or what they may, with good reason, consider paltry. For example, a commonly assessed sum for enduring mild to moderate psychiatric suffering experienced by the parents of a baby dying during child-birth, due to negligent obstetric or midwifrey care, has been a figure in the order of $30 – $35,000.00. With the application of the CLA deductible, this is reduced to $11 – 16,000.00. Whilst it is critical to appreciate this is compensation for the parents’ suffering and not a value on the lost life, it can be immediately appreciated why so many clients see such an assessment for their loss, as insulting + in no way reparation for their suffering.
I note with interest the practice prevalent in the United Kingdom whereby its Court of Appeal periodically reassesses the amount that will be awarded for non‑pecuniary loss aspect to claims. For example I came across in passing, a press release indicating a 10% increase in the amounts to be awarded for this head of damage with effect in relation to judgments after 1 April 2013.
In my view there is much to commend such a practice to reflect overall changing attitudes and expectations in the community as well as changes in the purchasing power of any given ‘symbolic’ compensation awarded to the claimant.