Four landmark cases due to be heard in the Court of Appeal are expected to
lead to a universal increase in injury compensation for staff.
In the cases going to appeal on 28 February judges will take into account
for the first time recommendations by the Law Commission that pay-outs for
psychological and physical injuries should be much higher.
The Law Commission report published in April 1999 said some levels should
double while others should go up by 50 per cent. If the Court of Appeal agrees,
the new rates will apply to all future cases.
This would push up the limit for psychological illness caused by stress or
bullying from £50,000 to £100,000 and for blindness in one eye from £25,000 to
Loss of earnings will continue to be paid on top.
"This is revolutionary stuff, it has wide-reaching implications for all
personal injury cases," said Ian Walker, senior partner at Russell, Jones
and Walker and president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers.
The changes would mean that pay-outs for stress, which reached a record this
month when Worcestershire Council paid £203,000, will go up again.
Rita Sammons, president of local authority personnel body Socpo, said,
"Obviously we would not welcome anything that would potentially add to our
costs but an increase will push all employers to make sure they are doing their
utmost to avoid getting into this area.
"We need to get prevention in earlier by making sure we are recruiting
the right people and that they are well prepared for the tasks they will have
to face. We have to keep supporting and training them and making sure problems
are picked up as quickly as possible," she added.