Compensation for personal injury: The case for reform

Stevenson, James Campbell (1976) Compensation for personal injury: The case for reform. LL.M(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The advantages traditionally claimed for the fault system do not stand up to close scrutiny in the socio-legal climate of the second half of the twentieth century. An injured person recovers damages not according to his needs, but according to whether he is able to prove that his injury was caused by the "fault" of another. In many cases whether such proof is available is a matter of chance. Over thirty years ago Sir William Beveridge concluded that with the inevitable uncertainties of legal proceedings, suits for damages could not escape having something of the character of a lottery. The system of recovering damages for personal injury is in practice expensive to operate, involves considerable delays before payment of compensation is made, and compensates future lost income by lump sums which are not calculated with sufficient precision or with proper regard to important factors such as inflation. There are no proper rules for deciding whether and to what extent benefits provided by the state should be deducted from awards of damages, and the present rules, which depend on nebulous distinctions between different kinds of benefit, are entirely unsatisfactory. The social security system deals with large numbers of claims by an efficient administrative process and compensates as a general rule by periodic payments, it is now of much greater significance, in terms of the amount of benefit provided, than recovery of damages. There are problems, particularly with regard to the preferential treatment of accidents arising out of and in course of employment. The position of those incapacitated for long periods should be improved. In addition there is the problem of abuse, which is always likely to be present in any system designed to deal speedily with large numbers of claims. The Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme is relatively unimportant in terms of the amount of compensation it provides. It is difficult to justify the existence of this scheme on rational grounds. Reforms are necessary. They could be undertaken within the existing system. So far as awards of damages are concerned, procedure could be improved, legal aid could be made more widely available, and more accurate assessment of damages is possible. Anomalies within the social security system could be removed, and proper rules could be developed dealing with the deduction of state benefits from awards of damages. Such changes would not, however, meet the criticisms of the system as it operates in practice. The field of road accidents is one where there is dissatisfaction with the present system and special rules could be introduced for road accident victims. The problem is that it is difficult to justify preferential treatment of certain classes of victims, and ultimately only a system along the lines of the system recently adopted by New Zealand is able to deal with all accident victims in a humane and equitable way.

Item Type: Thesis (LL.M(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Keywords: Law
Date of Award: 1976
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1976-72958
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 11 Jun 2019 11:06
Last Modified: 11 Jun 2019 11:06

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