Lord Sumption, Justice of the Supreme Court, has challenged the system of fault based personal injury and clinical negligence claims and has made some controversial recommendations to change it.
In order to successfully claim for personal injury the person who has been injured (the Claimant) has to prove that the person who caused the injury (the Defendant) was at fault.
Lord Sumption has said the process of attributing fault against the Defendant is ‘inherently biased’ towards Claimants and that it has become too difficult to persuade judges that Defendants are not to blame.
Lord Sumption’s most controversial points were made about the amount of compensation Claimants should receive. He firstly argued that the Claimant should only be compensated for the injury they suffer (for example, the pain involved in breaking a bone and the length of time it takes to recover) if the pain and suffering is long-term. He even suggested that Claimants should not be compensated for their injuries at all – regardless of how long it lasts!
If this was the case then Claimants would be left with only their financial losses to be compensated for, such as travel expenses and lost earnings from work. However, Lord Sumption is not happy with that either and recommends that Claimants should only be allowed to recover a ‘reasonable standard’ of living; therefore arguing that higher earners should not recover their full wages when they have suffered an injury that is not their fault. This of course does not take into account the fact that higher earners are likely to have considerably higher outgoings to meet.
So is the system really biased towards Claimants and should Lord Sumption’s suggestions be put in place?
Is the system biased? Well, the burden of proving a Defendant’s negligence lies with the Claimant and they have to provide enough evidence to satisfy the Court that the Defendant is to blame. Therefore, having to prove fault actually protects Defendants when there is not enough evidence in the Claimant’s favour.
Should his suggestions be followed? The notion of preventing Claimants from being compensated for their injuries goes against the core principle of bringing personal injury claims. Why should you not be compensated for the pain of a broken leg, for the inconvenience of having to wear a cast for weeks or for missing out on hobbies and social activities due to someone else’s negligence?
No doubt Lord Sumption’s comments will be welcomed by insurance companies and local authorities (in other words, those who have to pay out compensation for claims!) but whether they influence the system will have to be seen. Even Lord Sumption himself admitted that the system is very unlikely to change any time soon and nor should it in our opinion.
We here at Jordans are passionate about supporting individuals during the difficult times following an accident or injury and believe that everyone has the right to be properly compensated when they have been injured due to another’s negligence. If you have suffered an injury through no fault of your own, then call 01924 457 171 to speak to one of our personal injury experts today.