Legal reforms set to 
bring higher damages 
for civil court victors

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People who launch successful claims for damages in the civil courts are to get higher damages from next year, the most senior judges in the country announced.

Levels of damages for those injured in incidents such as road crashes, mishaps at work and other mishaps would rise by 10 per cent from April 1 next year, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, said in a decision handed down at the Court of Appeal yesterday.

The increase in the general level of damages would also apply to the victims of nuisance, successful claimants in defamation cases, and in other cases involving “suffering, inconvenience or distress”, said Lord Judge, who was sitting with the Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuberger, and Lord Justice Maurice Kay, Vice-President of the Court of Appeal, Civil Division.

The increase in damages comes with reforms to the funding regime for civil claims introduced in the Legal Aid, Sentencing, and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012.

The Act abolishes the current no-win-no-fee Conditional Fee Agreement (CFA) system under which a claimant’s lawyers can recover a “success fee” – which can amount to 100 per cent of their normal fee – on top of their usual charges from a losing defendant, meaning the defendant faces a costs bill which may come close to double what might otherwise be expected.

Instead, under the incoming regime, claimants will have to pay the success fee, which will be capped at 25 per cent, from the damages they receive – which is one reason why the general level of damages is being raised.

The reforms also end the system under which claimants operating on a CFA could take out so-called After the Event (ATE) insurance, to protect them from having to pay a defendant’s costs in the event that they lost, and claim the premium from the losing defendant if they won.

The reforms to the funding regime for civil claims in the Legal Aid, Sentencing, and Punishment of Offenders Act follow the recommendations of a massive report on costs in civil litigation produced by Sir Rupert Jackson, who sits in the Court of Appeal as Lord Justice Jackson, which was published in 2009.

Sir Rupert recommended a 10 per cent increase in general damages in civil cases to compensate for the effect of stopping successful claimants making losing defendants pay success fees and insurance premiums.