No one can put a financial value on broken bones, nightmares, surgery, death. No one. Except there is no choice. We have to. That’s what Courts, and lawyers, do.
Clients, Claimants, non-clients, non-Claimants, alike, everyone, starts by telling me you can’t put a price on parts of a damaged body, it seems sacrilegious. How can you value a punctured lung, an amputated foot, the loss of the ability to have children, the loss of a partner? It seems too heartless.
But we live in a society dependent on money. Money is our mode of exchange. Pretty well everything, in one way or another, does have a price, whether we like it or not. And we – our whole society – want the wrongdoer to pay for the wrong done.
So, if someone smashes their car into you, or a surgeon’s knife slips, or you inhale poison from a can of some DIY product, you expect money, you expect compensation to be paid.
And if there’s compensation there must be a method of calculation, a system that leads to a money figure, and the payment pounds sterling.
Hence, law, lawyers, principles formulated, principles applied, losses dropped into a spreadsheet.
In our UK jurisdiction, Judges got together some years ago, along with senior legal specialists, to create some kind of consistency for lawyers and Claimants to value injuries. They came up with what is now the Judicial College Guidelines for the Assessment of General Damages in Personal Injuries Cases. Less than snappy, but the lawyers’ bible for us specialists in injury claims.
The principle is that injuries usually have degrees of severity which the JC Guidelines put into brackets.
For instance, “Trivial Thumb Injuries” – which means the symptoms lasted only “a few months” – is a bracket up to £1,930.
By contrast a “Very Serious Injury to Thumb” is a bracket from £17,190 to £30,700 – “where the thumb has been severed at the base and grafted back leaving a virtually useless and deformed digit…”. Serious.
The system of valuing injuries is crude, has limits, is often unsatisfactory, and often seems to come out with a figure that is far too low. Flaws, yes, but this is the system we’ve got, and it’s embedded in the legal process, intended to constitute justice, and does, at least, begin to balance up the wrongdoing, even if that is the extent of it.
And then there is the valuation of all the other losses. But that’s for another post.