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Bernadette Skillen v NIG LTD. - Livingston Sheriff Court, December 2009


The Pursuer claimed damages for injuries she suffered in a road traffic accident. Liability was not in dispute but quantum could not be agreed and a Proof took place. At the time of the Proof the Pursuer was 41 years old. She was the only witness to give evidence. On several important points her evidence was entirely different from the information she had given to the Consultant in Accident & Emergency Medicine and Surgery who had examined her and provided a medical report. Both parties had agreed that the terms of the report represented an accurate description of the nature and extent of the injuries sustained by the Pursuer and her treatment and prognosis. As a result, the Sheriff could not accept the Pursuer's evidence as reliable. He was not able to accept any evidence from the Pursuer about the precise effects of the accident on her. The Pursuer stated in evidence that she had not yet recovered from her injuries but the Consultant's report indicated that her symptoms had resolved fully within 10 months of the accident.The Sheriff found that the Pursuer had suffered a soft tissue injury to her neck from a whiplash distortion and a soft tissue injury to her lower back that had exacerbated the symptoms of pre existing degenerative changes to her spine. The Sheriff referred to the view he had expressed in another case - Valentine –v- McGinty - in which he had expressed the opinion that, in most cases, damages should be assessed by reference to the JSB Guidelines, rather than extensive reference to awards in other cases. In assessing solatium, the Sheriff took as a very general starting point the JSB Guidelines for minor back injuries where recovery was made within 2 years. The Guidelines suggested that an award should be no more than about £5,000. For a minor neck injury from which recovery was made within a year, an appropriate award was suggested at £850 and £2,750. The Sheriff took into account the fact that both the Pursuer's injuries were caused by the same whiplash mechanism and that to some extent there was an overlap between the injuries. He also took into account the Pursuer's pre-existing back problem and noted that his assessment of her evidence had to count against her to a considerable extent. The Pursuer suggested a figure of £3,250 as solatium. The Defenders suggested a figure of £1,800. The Sheriff indicated that, if that figure had not been put forward by the Defenders, he may have made a lower award but, as the Defenders had suggested £1,800, he would award that figure for solatium.