Cars driving on a wet road

What are damages?

Damages means compensation.  Money paid to the value of a wrong.

How damages are calculated I will explain in a moment.  Legal principles, guidance issued by Judges in cases, and guidance issued by a committee called the Judicial College, set the rules.

But let’s face the fact: getting damages is the point of any claim. Claimants tend to say, it’s not about the money.  Sometimes this is true.  But sometimes it’s all about the money.

Usually, it is at least mostly about the money.

Injuries may be so bad, money is little more than being given a sugary sweet.  Nothing else gets fixed, but at least when you’re eating the sweet, the sugar changes the taste in your mouth.  And money is always sweet.  Even when the bitter taste returns after the sweet is gone.

In the end, the whole claim system is about answering this question:  what will I get paid when this is all over?

There’s nothing rude or offensive about admitting this.  The insurance industry is built on money, commercial enterprise.  And even if your claim is against the NHS, for instance, and even if an apology does go some way to right a wrong, pounds paid into your bank proves the wrongdoer, or those responsible for the wrongdoer, is giving up a metaphorical pound of flesh.

Compensation – damages – are made up general damages and special damages.  This translates into a sum for your injuries, and a sum for your expenses.

Most, Claimants assume compensation for injuries (general damages) is what their case is really about, with a few expenses (special damages) rightfully reimbursed, as well.

The reality for serious claims is that expenses (special damages) make up the largest part of the real losses.  Medical evidence that describes the injuries, acts as the framework inside which losses are calculated.

In lower value claims (below £25,000 in total), expenses are usually relatively uncomplicated.  Loss of earnings, travel expenses, treatment/medication costs, covering a particular period after an accident, make up most of what is claimable.

In more serious claims, especially if an accident, or clinical mistake, has caused long term or lifelong symptoms, a full Schedule of Special Damages and Future Losses is drafted.

Whether or not Court proceedings are required, this Schedule will be the core document setting out past and future losses: loss of earnings, treatment costs, whether incurred or needed, care given, and care required, home modifications, travel requirements, in short, any costs that result from the injuries.

When the Schedule is complete, it will end up with a figure – the highest legally arguably figure the Claimant can claim.

However, claims rarely settle for anything near to what is set out in the Schedule of Special Damages and Future Loss.

And, in answer to the question set out at the beginning: what will I get paid when this is all over?  – the answer is: for most cases it’s all about negotiation.  Trials do happen, but when it comes to trials about what compensation is payable, they are rare.

Like all professions, lawyers use technical language to describe the details of what makes up applied law. Damages, for Personal Injury and Clinical Negligence lawyers, is the goal – compensation for clients.