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Mixed Claims Ruling By Supreme Court

The Whiplash Injury Regulations 2021

The Whiplash Injury Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/642) came into force in May 2021, significantly affecting claimants who suffered whiplash injuries in motor vehicle accidents after that date. The regulations limited the recoverable general damages for claimants to amounts set out in a tariff.

Whiplash injuries with a duration of less than three months would have attracted an award of £2,450. Now, the regulations entitle a claimant to £240 for the same injury.

The tariff values damages for two categories of claim. The first is where there are one or more whiplash injuries. The second is where there are one or more whiplash injuries accompanied by one or more minor psychological injuries suffered on the same occasion.

Multiple Injuries – Common Law

Where there are multiple injuries, the Court will make an award which reflects a claimant’s total pain, suffering, and loss of amenity (PSLA). Usually this means making a lower award than the claimant would have been entitled to if each injury was assessed individually. This is because multiple injuries will usually have an overlapping effect on a claimant’s overall PSLA. This approach was set out in Sadler v Filipiak [2011] EWCA Civ 1728.

Whiplash and Non-Whiplash Claims

The Whiplash Injury Regulations do not deal with claimants who have suffered another type of injury in addition to whiplash. The Supreme Court had to decide on the correct approach to be used where the injuries included a fixed tariff whiplash and another type of injury, which were subject to a common law assessment.

Hassam and Another v Rabot and Another [2024] UKSC 11

The Supreme Court heard proposals from the claimant and the defendant on three possible approaches.

  1. The defendant submitted that the court should first take the tariff amount laid down in the regulations, and then only add the amount of common law damages for PSLA for the non-whiplash injury if the claimant could establish that the non-whiplash injury had caused a different type of PSLA.
  2. The claimant’s proposal was to add the amount for the tariff injuries to the common-law damages for the non-tariff injuries and make no further deduction.
  3. The claimant also submitted an alternative approach in the event that their primary proposal was rejected. The approach was that the tariff amount for the whiplash injury should be added together with the common law damages for PSLA for the non-whiplash injury. Then stand back to consider whether to make a deduction for any overlap between the two amounts. Any deductions should only be made from the damages for the non-whiplash injury because the tariff amount was a statutory fixed sum.

The Rejected Approaches

The defendant’s approach was rejected as this approach would lead to altering the common law measure of general damages for non-whiplash injuries. Secondly, the task of expecting the claimant to prove that the PSLA was ‘different’ would require a new level of detail in medical reports. Thirdly, If the PSLA for both types of injury was the same, then a claimant might end up with a lower amount of damages for PSLA in respect of both whiplash and non-whiplash injuries than would have been awarded for the non-whiplash injury alone.

The claimant’s primary approach was rejected because it ignored the issue of double recovery and was contrary to the common law principle of compensatory damages.

The Supreme Court Ruling – The Correct Approach

In a judgment handed down on 26 March 2024, the Supreme Court validated the decision of the Court of Appeal and the claimant’s alternative approach. They set out the definitive approach to calculating PSLA damages in mixed cases as follows:

“Where the claimant is seeking damages for PSLA in respect of whiplash injuries and non-whiplash injuries a court should:

  1. Assess the tariff amount by applying the table in the 2021 Regulations.
  2. Assess the common law damages for PSLA for the non-whiplash injuries.
  3. Add those two amounts together.
  4. Step back and consider whether one should make an adjustment applying the Sadler principle. The adjustment must reflect, the need to avoid double recovery for the same PSLA.
  5. If it is decided that a deduction is needed, that must be made from the common law damages.
  6. As a caveat, the final award could not be lower than would have been awarded as common law damages for PSLA for the non-whiplash injuries had the claim been only for those injuries.

Conclusion

As an example, if the claimant suffered whiplash injuries to his neck and also suffered non-whiplash soft tissue injuries to his legs, the tariff amount for the whiplash injuries might be assessed at £1,000. The common law damages for PSLA for the leg injury might be assessed at £2,000.

Adding those together would amount to an overall figure of £3,000. The court would then have to step back by making a deduction for an overlap between the PSLA from the different types of injury. The overall award may therefore be assessed down to £2,500.

The judgment means that claimants are able to recover damages for their non-tariff injuries, without having to prove ‘a different’ PSLA.

*This article is not legal advice but provides a general overview. The specific details of your case will determine the best course of action.