Personal Injury claims will in future be based on English Law the Government has proposed in a recently published Bill. The Damages Act 2018 is set to give certainty in relation to the value of personal injury claims, as well as giving guidelines in assessing their value.
There has been uncertainty for those defending personal injury claims locally after two Supreme Court decisions cast doubt on whether the ‘English Method’ of assessing such claims should apply in Gibraltar anymore. Currently there is no specific legislation in Gibraltar covering the value of personal injury claims.
In one 2016 case, Puisne Judge Adrian Jack found, without any adversial argument and no formal evidence of the local economy, that the English Guidelines were too low for the “particular circumstances of Gibraltar” at least in relation to the assessment of general damages. He stated the Supreme Court should instead follow the Northen Irish Guidelines which have higher limits for Personal Injury pay outs.
Under the English system a claimant suffering personal injuries leaving him tetraplegic , suffering partial or full loss of use of all four limbs, may expect to obtain a sum of between around £250,000 to £320,000 whereas in Northern Ireland this would be between £400,000 and £575,000.
The following year, the issue came before the Supreme Court again. On this occasion the defendant argued the court was obliged to follow English law. However, again Mr Justice Jack was of the view English guidelines were not appropriate given the higher standard of living in Gibraltar compared to the UK.
The uncertainty has meant both sides in these types of cases have greatly contrasting expectations of damages, therefore diminishing the chances of an early out-of-court settlement. The consequence of this has often been increased legal costs.
The proposed Bill will give the previously applied ‘English method’ statutory footing on the Rock, casting uncertainty aside.
The new act will apply to claims that occur in Gibraltar and should not affect Insurers based here that have their client base in the UK, as they are governed by Personal injury laws in the country in which the accident takes place.
The Bill will be discussed in Parliament before it can become law.