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Damages in injury claims

Many people ask about the high award for damages for injury claims in the United States. Frequently, there are multi-million-dollar awards, but this is because in the United States injury claims are heard by juries and juries are empowered to award punitive damages, that is damages to punish the person who caused the injury.

In Queensland, injury cases are heard by a Judge and there is no power to award punitive damages.

Damages in injury claims are calculated by way of heads of damage with an amount being awarded under each head if it is applicable.

The heads of damages are General Damages, Special Damages both past and future, Past Economic Loss, Future Economic Loss and Past and Future Gratuities and Paid Care.

General Damages

General Damages are awarded to compensate the injured person for pain and suffering and loss of amenities of their life. In Queensland, the amount awarded for General Damages is governed by the Civil Liability Regulations. Those regulations require that for each injury an Injury Scale Value is awarded. The injury scale runs from 1 to 100 and in the case of multiple injuries, the dominant injury is used for the Injury Scale Value from which damages are calculated with a 25% uplift. Once the Injury Scale Value has been arrived at, another scale from the same regulations mandates the amount of General Damages. By way of example, a Plaintiff with an injury scale value of 15 for an injury that occurred between 1st July 2015 and 30th June 2016 would have General Damages awarded at $25,800.

Special Damages

Special damages are awarded for out-of-pocket expenses such as medical expenses, travel costs are awarded for both past and future special damages.

Past Economic Loss

If the injured person has been off work and has lost income, then an award is made to compensate for that loss including the loss of any superannuation payments that would have been made at the same time.

Future Economic Loss

Future economic loss is calculated in two ways depending on the circumstances of the case. If the injured person can demonstrate a weekly loss of a given amount, then the injured person is awarded that sum calculated as a present value in accordance with his working life. By way of example, if the injured person had 20 years of working life left, the present value of $200 a week for 20 years is $66,000. The rationale behind using that present value, is that the injured person is given a sufficient sum of money that if he put it in the bank and invested it he could take out $200 a week each week for 20 years and on the last year he would be left with $200.

If the injured person cannot demonstrate that he has an actual weekly loss at the time of the trial, but it is likely on the evidence that he will lose time off work from time to time and will be at a disadvantage in the labour market should he have to change jobs, the injured person will be awarded a global sum for economic loss to compensate the injured person for the chance that in the future he may suffer economic loss.

Past & Future Gratuities and Paid Care

If the injured person has had to pay for a carer, then the injured person can recover that amount in the past and also the present value of the cost of the carer into the future. It is worked out as the same way as future economic loss.

If the injured person has had a member of the household or any other person help him or her to do things that the injury prevents them from doing, for instance shopping, cooking etc., and that assistance has been given for six hours a week for at least six months, the injured person can recover that as if the injured person paid the commercial rate for it. In other words, if the injured person required six hours a week for six months of gratuitous care, the Defendant would still be required to pay the injured person by damages usually $30 an hour, that is $180 a week for 26 weeks. Once the threshold is reached the injured person is entitled to damages even if the injured person needless unpaid care.

The Defendant is also required to pay interest on any monies that the injured person has expended information to his damages. For instance, if the injured person has spent $1,500 on doctors, interest would be payable on that sum.

Contact Rita Derek of this firm for further advice.

Posted in: Derek Legal Blog at 17 January 18

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