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November 27th 2012 saw the launch of a new scheme for criminal injuries compensation in England, Scotland & Wales. The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority, a government funded body based in Glasgow (with offices in London) has been available to help the innocent victims of criminal assaults by providing some level of compensation settlement.
Unfortunately, it would seem that yet another attack has been launched on the rights of people wishing to pursue claims for personal injury compensation, this time on criminal assault victims by the government. They claim that the changes to the scheme will save £50m annually.
For those now wishing to pursue a claim for criminal injuries compensation, any claim made from today (regardless of the date of the incident) will have their claim for compensation processed via the new scheme. The real headline of the new scheme is that it will no longer provide any level of personal injury compensation to those victims who have suffered ‘minor injuries’ such as claims made by people who have suffered injuries such as a broken nose, broken cheek bone or lost/damaged teeth. Whether these are minor injuries or not is a moot point. I certainly wouldn’t call a broken nose minor. It’s a painful and distressing injury. Previously, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority was the only access to compensation for most victims of criminal assaults. Claiming compensation is not all about money and whilst no monetary compensation would ever fully ease the suffering of a horrible assault, it was shown to put some closure on the matter for a number of claimants.
Another shocking (and worrying) change to the scheme is the alteration to the level of income loss a claimant can claim for. In Personal Injury claims, loss of income comes under ‘special damages‘ and can be claimed for in full – dependent on a claimant proving their loss of income. Previously, the Criminal Injuries scheme allowed a claimant to claim loss of income, only if they were out of work for a period of 26 weeks (half a year) or more. The new scheme states that a claimant must still be out of work for 26 weeks or more to claim loss of income, but rather than compensate the claimant for their loss of income at the rate that they usually earn, they will now only settle the loss of income claim at the rate of statutory sickness pay. This means that if you previously earned a large salary and were then beaten to the point that you could no longer work, whilst you may get a compensation figure from the Criminal Injuries scheme, your loss of income will be capped at the rate of £60 odd pounds weekly.
Claimant groups, lawyers and victims associations all responded clearly in a negative manner to the government when they ‘consulted’ on this change. Yet the government still went ahead with the changes.