Understanding personal injury case law is an important aspect of making a successful claim. Case law is made by judges presiding over a particular case and represents the official opinion of the court. When a case comes before the court  relevant laws, regulations and statutes will be used, and the judge will also refer to any precedents that have been set in past cases to come before the court - which is where case law comes in. The court doesn't necessarily have to use case law as a precedent, but it can often be used to help settle similar cases. There are many important case law precedents for personal injury claims which we have listed below.

Personal Injury Case Studies

As new case law is being created frequently, we will keep the below list updated on a regular basis. Read medical negligence case law here.

Lougheed v On the Beach Limited EWCA Civ 1538 - 27/11/14

This concerned a case heard at the Court of Appeal in regard to a package holiday claim in which the Claimant consumer slipped on water on granite stairs at a hotel in Spain, resulting in personal injury.

At first instance, the Court found that the hotel failed to exercise reasonable care and the Defendant organiser was liable for the injuries sustained by the Claimant under the Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992.

On appeal, the Court reaffirmed that the standard of care that the hotel was expected to meet were local standard and not that of the standards that would apply in England and Wales.

Tomlinson LJ remarked, "an Englishman does not travel abroad in a cocoon" and explained that the standards by which the hotel would be judged would be informed by local standards of care as applied by establishments of similar size and type.

The first ground of appeal was whether the trial judge had incorrectly relied upon evidence concerning the hotel manager as evidence of local standards. It was claimed that there had been no expert evidence put before the trial judge in regard to local standards. As well as this, no enquiry concerning the general practice in monitoring spillages in Spain.

Tomlinson LJ said, "A claimant who chooses not to adduce such evidence in a case of this sort does so at his peril".

There is no requirement that the evidence need be put before the court by an expert, but in the present case, the evidence from the hotel manager was not sufficient.

The second ground of the appeal concerned the widely known judgment of Lawton LJ in Ward v Tesco, in which he referred to a slippage in a supermarket, "if an accident does happen because the floors are covered with spillage, then in my judgment some explanation should be forthcoming from the defendants to show that the accident did not arise from any want of care on their part; and in the absence of any explanation the judge may give judgment for the plaintiff".

Tomlinson LJ confessed to having difficulty with this reasoning due to the fact that it still begged the question as to what point the spillage occurred. If it was before the accident happened then there would be nothing a defendant could do. He went further and stated that he was bound by Ward v Tesco but also added that it seemed to him that the decision was based on the finding that the defendant, in that case, knew of a likelihood of spillages occurring from time to time and that such spillages posed a danger if it was not dealt with promptly.

In this particular case, in his judgment, the accident could have happened despite the exercise of proper care. It was therefore not a suitable case for the invocation of the principle in Ward v Tesco as there was no finding that spillages or the presence of water were likely in this area. Based on this reasoning, the appeal was allowed on both grounds and the claim was dismissed. Court: Court of Appeal (Civil Division) (England & Wales)

Afouzar v First Centre West Buses Limited EWHC (QB) - 23/10/14

A claim was considered by HHJ Coe QC concerning a pedestrian who had run into the path of an oncoming bus which then resulted in the claimant sustaining significant injuries, including an injury to the head. The issue being decided was whether the bus driver had been negligent in causing the injuries sustained. The Judge considered that ignoring the 'red man' at the pedestrian crossing would not in of itself be negligent, however, "The red signal is at least a warning to stop and look and had he done so he would have seen the bus. I find the Claimant simply ran out into the road in front of the bus." The Judge also took into account the importance of the safety of the passengers on the bus when deciding whether a failure to emergency brake was negligent.

She ruled, "It was not negligent as I find for him not to have seen the Claimant but even had he done so at the point at which I find he could reasonably have anticipated a risk it was already too late for the collision to have been avoided at all or the collision to have been avoided without serious risk to others ... I do not consider it negligent for the driver not to have braked at a rate which might have been in excess of the bus's capability anyway and which would have given rise to a real risk of serious injury to passengers. I heard evidence that maximal braking is rarely achieved." The Judge then dismissed the claim.

Platt v BRB (Residuary) Ltd EWCA Civ 1401 - 31/10/14

The Claimant brought a claim for damage to his hearing alleging that the injury was sustained during the course of his employment with his previous employer. This he alleged was due to a noisy working environment between 1953 and 1988.

He had sought medical advice in regard to problems with his hearing on a number of occasions between 1982 and 2011. However, it was not until the year 2011 that he was told that his hearing loss was noise induced. Most importantly, the Claimant made a complaint to his GP about tinnitus and hearing loss in his right ear in 1997, and he was referred to an ENT specialist.

The Claimant was asked by his doctor whether he had worked in a noisy environment, to which he confirmed he had. At this point, the Claimant failed to ask whether the problems he was having were noise induced and the doctor did not tell him. Under s11 (4) of the Limitation Act, a Claimant must bring his claim within three years of the date of actual knowledge of the injury, this matter was under consideration in this case. More specifically, the court had to determine whether the Claimant was affected in or around 1997 by constructive knowledge of the fact that his tinnitus and hearing loss was attributable in part, to the negligence of his former employer such that his claim was statute-barred under the 1980 Act.

At first instance, the case was heard by HH Judge Halbert who gave a judgment on 21 November 2013. The Judge stated that the Claimant did not have actual knowledge that there was a real possibility that his hearing loss was noise induced until he read a newspaper article in the year 2010. This period was less than 3 years before he issued proceedings.

He decided that the Claimant was not affected by constructive knowledge of the cause of his deafness, the reason being that "to afflict a man who has consulted the medical profession on 12 occasions with constructive knowledge because he did not specifically question their own judgment of what they were telling him is too harsh a test".

The Judge concluded that in taking the full circumstances of the case into account, it wasn’t reasonable to have expected the Claimant to ask his ENT doctor what caused his deafness and tinnitus in 1997. The defendant appealed the decision of the Judge in regard to the fact “that it was not reasonable to expect a reasonable person in a position to ask his ENT doctor, whether the history of noise exposure which they had discussed, caused or contributed to the symptoms with which the Claimant presented". However, it was not disputed that he had done so; he would have been likely to have been informed that his tinnitus and hearing loss were noise related.

The widely held judgment of the Court was given by Vos LJ with both Sharp and Jackson LJJ agreeing. Vos LJ referred to the main authorities on this point of law: Adams v Bracknell Forest Borough Council 1 AC 76, London Strategic Health Authority v Whiston EWCA Civ 195 and Johnson v Ministry of Defence EWCA Civ 1505. He held (at paragraph 31) that "applying the appropriate test in section 14(3) with the guidance of Dyson LJ in Whitson, it was reasonable to expect to ask his ENT doctor what had caused his hearing loss in all the circumstances of the case". The court allowed the appeal and the judgment was given for the Defendant on limitation on the basis that the Claimant's claim was time-barred under the Limitation Act 1980. 

Billett v MOD EWHC 3060 (QB) - 05/09/14

Whilst on a military exercise in February 2009 the claimant (formerly a Lance Corp. in the Royal Logistics Corps, suffered a cold-related non-freezing foot injury. Due to the injury, the claimant's feet were permanently ‘sensitised’ to the ill-effects of the adverse cold weather, and his compensation claim against the Ministry of Defence featured a large future loss of earning claims. Liability was admitted by the Defendant on a 75:25 basis during proceedings when they were held in front of a High Court Judge in July 2014.

After leaving the Army in October 2011, the Claimant claimed that this due in part to the injury which he alleged had damaged his career prospects within the military. On leaving the service, he began civilian employment as a HGV driver. The Claimant argued that the injury had forced him out of military service early, and if it wasn’t for the injury he would have stayed in the Army until retirement. His claim was therefore also based on damages to reflect the impact his injury had on his ability and capacity within the civilian labour market.

The High Court Judge, Andrew Edis QC, rejected the Claimant’s future loss of earnings claim, ruling that on the balance of probabilities it was impossible to establish for certain whether the Claimant could or would have stayed in the Army for the rest of his career. The Judge did, however, accept that the injury did limit the types of civilian jobs available to the Claimant on leaving military service and that the Claimant was entitled to damages reflecting the potential future difficulty he would have in finding suitable alternative employment.

It was ruled that an award of damages on a lump sum basis was not appropriate given the Claimant would have gone into the transport/logistics industry even without the injury, and that as he met the test for disability under Ogden 7, the award of damages should be assessed using the RFs from Tables A and B. In arriving at this judgement, the Judge highlighted that there was no statutory obligation to apply Tables A and B in a particular fashion (paragraph 44) and that the Court could depart from a mechanistic application of the Tables in appropriate cases (paragraph 47).

Broad reference was made in the Judgment to the commentary of Dr. Victoria Wass, an actuary, and member of the Ogden 7 Working Party. The important aspect of the Claimant’s case was that, despite the injury, he was in fact still fully deployable in the Army – even though he could be classified as disabled.

The Judge said it was “hard to conceive of very many people who could be classified as "disabled" who are as fit and able as the Claimant.... he could be deployed anywhere in the world to do anything".

Therefore the Judge ruled that the relevant Ogden RF should be adjusted to reflect the minor effects of the Claimant's residual disability as presented in his expert medical and employment evidence. At paragraph 59, he stated that "If I apply the RFs without deduction, he will clearly be one of those whose award will be wrong, because he will be compensated as any other disabled person would be compensated when in reality his disability is, by the standards of disability quite minor. His condition qualifies as a disability under the test I have applied, but only just".

Because of this, the Judge adjusted the RF by taking the midpoint figure between the not-disabled RF from Table A and the disabled RF from Table B. He stated at paragraph 61, in respect of reaching this conclusion that: "There is little logic in this approach, except that it gives a figure which appears to me to fully reflect the loss sustained by the Claimant, but to do so in a way which does not obviously overstate that loss. A judicial approach to the assessment of damages involves an exercise of judgment in the individual case being considered. Sometimes statistics give an answer which appears obviously too high, given the picture which emerges in the particular case. Where that happens, the Judge has to make an apparently arbitrary adjustment to that result or to decline to use the statistical material at all. It appears to me that it is preferable to make some use of the Tables and thus to give weight to the data from which they are derived. This means that the Tables have resulted in a higher award than the traditional approach".

Beaumont & O'Neill v Ferrer EWHC 2398 (QB) - 15/08/2014

The Claimants, in this case, were passengers in the Defendant's taxi. The Defendant stated that the Claimants tried to get out of the taxi whilst it was moving in order to leave the scene without paying. Three of the Claimants' friends run from the scene and the Defendant started to move his taxi to stop the Claimants from escaping without paying. The Claimants then jumped from the taxi whilst it was moving and as a result sustained serious injuries.

The court held that the fault of the taxi driver was overwhelmed by the intentions and actions of the Claimants. Even if the Defendant had breached their duty of care, this breach was not the cause of the Claimants injuries because they had decided to attempt to exit the taxi whilst it was moving. This specific act broke the causal connection between the fault and the damage sustained. The criminal acts had caused the damage.

Additionally, there were strong public policy reasons to discourage attempts to evade taxi fares, particularly if taxi drivers sought to take their own counter measures. The doctrine of illegality operated as a defence to the claim.

Dowdall v William Kenyon & Sons Limited EWHC 2822 (QB) - 12/08/14

The claimant had formerly been diagnosed with suffering from asbestosis and pleural plaques after being exposed to asbestos whilst employed by different employers. An action was commenced in 2003 against seven of those employers and was settled for £26,000. Since this period the claimant contracted mesothelioma and brought an action against three former employers who had not been a party to the 2003 settlement.

The Defendants stated that they should have been sued in the first action. Furthermore, if they had been sued during this period they would have joined in the 2003 settlement.This argument would have given them a complete defence of compromise to the present claim. They therefore argued that this particular claim was an abuse of process.

Their argument went further as they claimed that the claimant was estopped (by cause of action estoppel) from bringing the new proceedings and that the latest claim was barred by the Limitation Act 1980.

The court held that there was no abuse and the defendants were not party to the previous action and therefore had not been 'twice vexed'. The claimant's decision not to sue them was not so that he could 'have his cake and eat it too' but for the genuine reason that his solicitor had been unable to trace an insurer to meet claims against them.

In regard to the cause of action estoppel, the settlement went to the risk of contracting mesothelioma and as such was not an estimate of the full value of his loss had mesothelioma developed. Due to this, the claimant was not estopped from bringing the instant claim.

The judge did acknowledge that this might entitle the defendants to bring contribution claims against the seven employers that were a party to the 2003 settlement, and that issues may arise in those proceedings. In relation to the limitation defence, the claimant had the basic knowledge as early as 1998.

As such, the judge considered his discretion under section 33 of the Limitation Act 1980. The judge did not consider the defendant witnesses who had passed away would be able to support any feasible defence to the claim.

The judge took into consideration that the claimant had very good prospects of success and in balance, the defendants' evidential prejudice was outweighed by the prejudice the claimant would suffer if he lost the claim.

Landau v The Big Bus Company Limited & Pawel Zeital EWCA Civ 1102 - 31/07/14

As a result of a road traffic accident, where the Claimant's scooter became trapped in between a tourist bus (operated by the First Defendant) and a car (driven by the Second Defendant), the Claimant sustained a serious injury to his right leg. The negligence claim was therefore brought against the two defendants The claim made against the two defendants was that they had failed to see the Claimant's vehicle at traffic lights, and they had, therefore, failed to keep an adequate lookout.

Furthermore, given that the junction in question was wide enough to fit all three vehicles safely the collision had ultimately occurred because the two defendant drivers had failed to keep a safe distance and maintain suitable lane discipline. The Judge dismissed the Claimants claims in his judgment on 7 October 2013, finding that the Claimant's vehicle was in the blind spot of the two defendant drivers at the traffic lights and that the two defendants had taken all reasonable care when driving through the junction.

The judge ruled that to expect the two defendants to have proceeded in a different manner and avoid the Claimant would be to impose a 'counsel of perfection' upon them. He further ruled that even if the defendant drivers had seen the Claimant prior to proceeding from the traffic lights, no liability was attributable to them as they were entitled to assume that the Claimant would hold back and not pass between the vehicles. Even if the driving of the defendant drivers had been negligent, the Judge also ruled that the Claimant would be held 75% liable for the accident. The Claimant took the case to The Court Of Appeal, who dismissed the appeal on all grounds.

Davis v First Tier Tribunal (Criminal Injuries Compensation) & Anor EWCA (Civ) (Briggs LJ) – 24/06/14

The case involved a claimant who was seeking compensation under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme (CICS) due to allegedly not being present at the scene of the crime but upon the immediate aftermath. The Applicant’s ('A') former partner was killed in an assault that occurred in July 2009. There were two occasions when A saw the deceased, firstly when A attended the hospital in the early hours of the following day from the date of the assault. In the second instance, A saw the deceased's badly decomposed body at the undertaker's four months later.

A then suffered psychiatric injury due to the experience. A then made an application to the CICA for compensation on the basis that A was present at the immediate aftermath of the crime which resulted in the psychiatric injury.

The First-tier tribunal refused the application because they found that the time A visited the hospital did not constitute an event in the immediate aftermath. They found that A’s psychiatric injury had been caused by the experience in the undertaker's.

A then made an application for judicial review to challenge this decision, this application was dismissed. A then applied for permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal. Briggs LJ dismissed the application stating that there was a narrow basis upon which someone that was not present at the scene of the crime, could then recover compensation for the psychiatric injury under the CICS. The main focus of the scheme was in the immediate aftermath of the crime rather than upon the medical consequences.

Collins v Secretary of State for Business Innovation and Skills & Ors EWCA Civ 717 - 23/05/14

The claimant had been a dock worker and handled asbestos. He contracted lung cancer in 2002 that was treated successfully by radiotherapy. He instructed solicitors in 2009 and issued an asbestos claim in 2012. The claimant stated that he didn't know about the link between asbestos and lung cancer until 2009, but under the Limitation Act 1980, it was held that the claimant had constructive knowledge in 2003 and his claim was therefore held to have expired in 2006. Learn more about personal injury claims time limits.

Driver v Dover Roman Painted House Trust QBD (John Leighton Williams QC) - 11/04/14

The claimant submitted a claim for a head injury suffered after falling from a wall. The claim was based on the wall being too small, badly lit and poorly maintained. However, the judge ruled that the evidence presented strongly suggested that the claimant had been drinking and was attempting to relieve herself on the other side of the wall at the time she fell.

The judge, therefore, dismissed the claim as any permission the claimant may have had to enter the area did not extend to her climbing over the wall, and so in law, she was trespassing at the time the injury was sustained.

Kadir v Mistry & Ors EWCA (Civ); ER (D) 247 (Mar) – 26/03/14

The claimant’s wife, Ms. Begun visited the Defendant general practitioners for a number of months due to stomach related symptoms.  She was diagnosed with stomach cancer in March 2008 and was informed that the cancer was too advanced to treat; she then died in August 2008.

The Claimant brought a claim under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 for both himself and his children and for his wife’s estate under the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1934. The Defendant admitted negligence for failing to diagnose the Claimants wife’s stomach cancer as early as they should have done.

It was held by the trial judge that if the Claimant had been diagnosed at an earlier stage she would have lived for a further two years, however, she would have suffered from the same symptoms and would have had to undergo difficult treatments.  The judge decided not to award damages for PSLA. He also rejected the claim for damages under s.11 (b) of the Administration of Justice Act 1982for mental anguished caused by the wife being aware of her life expectancy reduction.

It was held by the Court of Appeal (CA) that there were no special rules in regards to the assessment of damages in cases that fell under the 1934 Act. When deciding, the court should undertake the conventional exercise and assess what pain was occasioned by the negligent act.

It was necessary to take into account the fact that the symptoms would have been suffered at some stage and the pain caused by the treatment. The CA reaffirmed that the judge had been correct to refuse to award damages for PSLA. Under s.1 (1) (b) of the Administration of Justice Act 1982, the CA decided that the claimant’s wife believed that the delay in diagnosing her cancer caused it to spread and her fear of this was based on good objective grounds. It was, therefore, unnecessary to prove that she knew her life expectancy was reduced by the delay. 

Due to her mental anguish lasting for a period of three months, taking into account her youth and small children and no psychiatric injury, she was awarded £3,500.

Curtis v Hertfordshire Council EWHC (QB) - 19/03/14

The claimant sustained injuries to his arm and skull after falling off his bicycle but had no memory of the incident. The claimants cycling partner returned to the crash site and found that the road had a severe defect - a long crack 40mm deep.

The Defendant's road inspector, who inspected the road six months previously, admitted that if he had identified the defect at that time he would have designated it as a 'category one' defect which would require repairs within seven days. The judge ruled that the Defendant's failure to register and repair the defect was a breach of duty, and the claimant bore no responsibility for his injuries. The claimant was subsequently awarded £20,000.

Cox v Ministry of Justice EWCA Civ 132 – 19/02/14

The Appellant worked as a catering manager at a prison run by the Respondent. This job involved supervising prisoners who worked in the prison kitchen. One prisoner dropped a sack of food causing a spill, due to that, the Appellant instructed all the prisoners to stop working whilst the spillage was cleared up.

However, one prisoner continued to work and dropped a sack onto the Appellant's back whilst she was kneeling to clean up the spillage. The judge in the first hearing dismissed the claim on the grounds that the Respondent did not have an employment relationship with the prisoner in question; as such they were not vicariously liable for his actions.

The Court of Appeal (CA) overturned this decision and found an employment relationship did exist on the grounds that the Respondent compensated the prisoner for his kitchen work, employing the prisoner caused the risk of injury to the Appellant and the prisoner was under the Respondent's control.

The Respondent was therefore vicariously liable for the prisoner's actions that day. The CA also stated that the work of kitchen workers was essential to the running of the prison and distinct from the activities of prisoners involved in the education and training programmes.

Employment of prisoners in the kitchen meant that the Respondent did not have to pay for external employees. As such, the Respondent should take on the burden of the prisoner's work as well as any benefits.

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