The date from when a “damage multiplier” for compensation can be awarded is currently under review by the Supreme Court. Consequently, there could be a change to the calculated amount of damages following a successful claim against a defendant, whose negligence caused death or shortened a claimant’s lifespan.
In February 2015, the Supreme Court gave permission for a direct appeal based on the possible overturn of a judgement made more than thirty five years previously. At the time, a judgement was passed on a case, which fixed the multiplier for damages from the date of the claimant’s death rather than from the date of the trial.
Subsequent criticism of the judgement called into question the significant difference in the compensation multiplier, which can often be by a factor of three to four, or more.
One recent case at the High Court, looked at the question of whether a child, whose life has been shortened by negligence, should be able to make a claim for damages for loss of earnings in the 'lost years' between the date when they will die and the expected normal lifespan. It has been suggested that awards of damages for children are being made on a different basis than those which can be claimed by adults.
Further issues may also arise as a result of the present Supreme Court review. While awards of damages for children whose life is shortened by negligence will be significantly greater than those, which occurred at the time of the breach of duty, those parents bringing a claim arising from the death of their child will almost inevitably be unable to establish a child's earning potential after death.
Solicitors acting on behalf of claimants in similar cases may assume a change in the law is about to take place and may decide to delay. At the same time, where a case involves an infant, or other protected party, the court might be reluctant to approve settlement until the law is decided.