In 1998, at the age of 18, the claimant suffered whiplash injuries in a road traffic accident. Shortly after the accident, he returned to work but had to leave 21 months later as he had developed a chronic pain condition. Liability was admitted.

The Judge held that the claimant was not capable of paid employment for the time being but that the assessment of future loss was difficult to approach on a traditional multiplicand/multiplier basis, as the claimant should be capable of returning to work eventually. The Judge applied the multiplicand and multiplier to assess earnings for the rest of the claimant’s life and then took only 15 per cent of that figure as representing his future loss of earnings.

The claimant appealed on the basis that the Judge was wrong to assess that his chance of returning to work was represented by taking only 15 per cent and also argued that the multiplicand used was too low.

The Court of Appeal held that assessment of claims for future loss of earnings presented a difficult problem for judges made all the more difficult when the extent of the claimant’s injuries were uncertain. The Judge had to make findings of fact and the younger the claimant the more difficult the task. The award in this case was too low as the Judge had clearly accepted the claimant’s evidence that he was not malingering and that his prognosis was poor. The multiplicand used was also too low and ought to have been based on the figure of net annual earnings that the claimant would have achieved at the date of trial.

Davies -v- Molyneux. Court of Appeal, 7 April 2006.

How much for stress?

Relatively few cases get to Trial successfully on stress-related illness. In a recent case, a 52-year-old woman, 49 at the date when the cause of action arose, worked as a clerical assistant for the council. She suffered stress as a result of the actions of her line manager. She left work and did not return.

She was unable to work for 18 months and required limited domestic assistance. She suffered from severe depression but her condition had improved and recovery was anticipated by September 2007. She would remain vulnerable in the future in the event of further trauma. General damages of £13,000 were awarded, with a total award of £26,000.

Morris -v- Stafford County Council. Bristol County Court, 3 March 2006.