The eyes of the personal injury sector will be on the Supreme Court this week as it hears arguments over the right levels of compensation in so-called mixed injuries.

In the cases of Rabot v Hassam and Briggs v Laditan five judges will rule on what damages should be awarded where claimants' injuries involve both injuries subject to a fixed tariff and those that are not. The Court of Appeal ruled last year that victims of an RTA could recover damages for both types of claim without cancelling out the other.

It was a decision acclaimed by the claimant sector and derided by insurers but did little to settle the debate. The decision was by a majority, with master of the rolls Sir Geoffrey Vos ruling in favour of the defendants, and was subject to a challenge to the Supreme Court. Submissions will be made on Tuesday.

The importance of the issue was illustrated by the latest figures from Official Injury Claim, which handles low-value RTA claims. In the period from October to December last year, 66.7% of claims were classed as mixed and therefore open to both fixed and non-fixed compensation. Just 30% of claims made through the portal were classed as tariff only.

While the volume of settlements has continued to rise, the average time from claim to settlement was 296 days compared with 270 days in the previous quarter.

More than 700,000 claims have so far been submitted to OIC, but, despite liability decisions in the majority of cases, fewer than 200,000 have been settled.

Insurers have warned of a risk of double compensation for injuries caused by the same accident if separate damages are given the green light. It was advanced in the Court of Appeal that the tariff amount should be the ‘starting point’ for damages and that the consequences of whiplash and other injuries were concurrent so did not need to be compensated twice over.

The claimant sector has maintained that assessing damages separately is in line with common law principles. Lawyers say their clients were promised simpler, swifter access to justice when the whiplash reforms were launched, but this continued dispute has only added to uncertainty and delays.

Andrew Wild, head of legal practice at First4InjuryClaims, said: ‘The Court of Appeal’s decision may not have been popular with insurers, but it provided clear, sensible and much-needed guidance, which I hope the Supreme Court will uphold, and urgently, so that vulnerable claimants and the lawyers they continue to need are not left in limbo for any longer than necessary.’

Some in the claimant lobby suggest that insurers have exaggerated the number of mixed claims being made. The Association of Consumer Support Organisations cited data from medical reporting organisations which appears to show that claims with multiple injuries are fewer than the numbers being reported by OIC, due to extra injury categories being added.

‘Insurers have sought to re-create a panic around an epidemic of mixed injury, but objective medical reporting data does not support this assertion, and I hope the Supreme Court will take account of this new data,’ said ACSO executive director Matthew Maxwell Scott.


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