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Monday, 23 January 2012

Damages for hacking v Damages for injury

There has been much coverage in the press about the compensation paid out to celebrities by News International following the ‘hacking’ scandal. This has clearly been a disgraceful invasion of privacy and nobody can have much sympathy for Rupert Murdoch’s company for having to make these payments.

But the amount the payments raises another interesting issue. That is the comparison between compensation paid to victims of hacking and that paid to victims of accidents. The latter have been subject to vilification by politicians, the press and insurance industry who say that we have a ‘compensation culture’ which needs to be dismantled.

So let’s look at some of figures that have been reported for victims of hacking. Jude Law got £130k. In an earlier settlement his ex, Sienna Miller, accepted £100k. These are to compensate the victims for injury to feelings etc and not for financial losses.

According to the most recent Guidelines Personal Injury Damages such awards would only be received for the most catastrophic of injuries.

For example, to get an award of £130k you would have to suffer a moderate brain injury with permanent consequences including moderate to severe intellectual deficit a personality change, an effect on sight, speech and senses with a significant risk of epilepsy and no chance of working.

If you lost the sight in one eye and the other carried a serious risk of deterioration in the other eye then you might expect £100k although that is at the higher end. You might get something approaching £100k for loss of a lung with lengthy pain and suffering with permanent scarring.

Now you cannot compare the two and I for one would never begrudge the damages paid to those who endured the invasion of their privacy. But we also need to get things in perspective before dismissing other victims as just being part of a culture of looking for easy money. To get anything approaching the damages paid to these celebrities you have to have suffered a permanent, life-changing injury. Those victims need all the support that they can get rather than constant, negative publicity.