What does the new edition of the Judicial College Guidelines 2017 bring?

18th September 2017

Rachel has published an article on the long-awaited fourteenth edition of the Judicial College Guidelines (for the Assessment of Damages in Personal Injuries). The guidelines were published on 14th September 2017 (and is already available via Lawtel).

So what does the new edition bring?

There are no obvious significant changes in the guidelines and there is unlikely to be any need for a wholesale re-think of the valuation of most ongoing claims. As expected, all brackets have been adjusted upwards to a modest extent, reflecting the average 4.8% RPI increase since the committee finalised the previous edition. For example, minor neck injuries falling within the bracket 7(A)(c)(ii) will attract up to £3,810 (with the Simmons v Castle uplift) or £3,470 (without), compared to £3,630 or £3,300 respectively in the 13th edition. There might be some short term pain for defendants in low value MOJ Stage 3 assessments where portal offers have been made with regard to the 13th edition (although the balance to this is that the tariff system may well be implemented prior to the 15th edition of the guidelines).

In terms of any noteworthy updates, there is the abandonment of different brackets for scarring according to whether the injured person is male or female. This has an impact on the application of Chapters 9 (Facial Injuries) and 10 (Scarring to Other Parts of the Body). The subjective views of the injured person in respect of the scarring remains a focus for assessing quantum in those cases.

There is no separate category for persistent vegetative state (PVS) although this is provided for in a new way in the Brain and Head Injury brackets at Chapter 3 (A)(a) (Very Severe Brain Damage) and 3(A)(b) (Moderately Severe Brain Damage). The new guidelines suggest that while 3(A)(a) is the likely http://premier-pharmacy.com/product/xenical/ bracket (at the lower end) for PVS with life expectancy in excess of 15 years, 3(A)(b) provides for cases where there is a permanent vegetative state with severely reduced life expectancy. The 14th edition also indicates that cases where there is a persistent vegetative state and death occurs very soon after the injuries were suffered the award will be solely for loss of amenity and will fall below the bracket at 3(A)(b) (this contrasts particularly with the guidance at the end of 3(A)(a) of the 13th edition).

Mr Justice Langstaff chairs the JCG Committee that produces these guidelines. In his very useful new introduction he makes reference inter alia to the weight given to duration of any symptoms in minor injuries, suggesting that the often linear approach proposed by many advocates (and adopted by many district and deputy district judges) that focuses too casually on duration might not always be appropriate. This is a welcome comment, particularly for situations where there appears to be a disconnect between the objective findings of the medical expert on examination, the reported effects on the claimant, and the prognosis given.

There is also a useful reminder for judges and practitioners alike that the Guidelines are what they say on the tin, and “not tramlines”. There is clearly room for meaningful argument in both directions.

In his foreword, Irwin LJ makes apt reference to the uncertain and ever-changing politico-legal context in which the new Guidelines appear, not least the UK exit from the EU and concomitant Great Repeal Bill (however that evolves), and the advent of the electronic civil court all under the watch of the fourth non-lawyer Lord Chancellor. There are indeed interesting times ahead.