8. Personal injury
There was a 5% decrease in personal injury cases initiated in 2015-16 compared to 2014-15
Almost a quarter of personal injury cases were raised in the Court of Session where they made up 72% of the cases in the General Department
Over half of personal injury cases were in relation to a road traffic accident
Personal injury in Scotland
Personal injury can be physical and/or psychological, and include disease or impairment. Personal injuries may result from a wide range of causes including an injury received at work, a traffic accident, or through negligence or a deliberate act on the part of another party. A person who has suffered an injury can seek redress through several routes, such as making a complaint against the person/organisation they consider to be responsible for the injury, seeking assistance with any financial problems they have as a result of their injury, or seeking counselling. Alternatively, they may wish to claim compensation, provided certain criteria are met to cover losses they have suffered as a result of the injury. A claim for compensation can be made using a claims assessor or by taking legal action in a civil court and, if successful, would result in a payment of damages being awarded.
A personal injury case is a form of damages case that relates specifically to damages for, or arising from, personal injuries or the death of a person from personal injuries. Personal injury actions do not cover defamation or any actions which are not commonly understood to be concerned with personal injuries. Such actions are covered in the Damages section of this bulletin.
Personal injury cases made up 11% of all civil court cases initiated in 2015-16 ( Table 13, Table 1). This includes the cases going through the recently established Sheriff Personal Injury Court, which is a specialised court.
Scottish Crime and Justice Survey
In the 2014-15 Scottish Crime and Justice Survey, 1% of respondents experienced a medical negligence issue and 2% experienced a personal injury problem in the last three years. The prevalence of experiencing at least one of these two issues was higher for crime victims (5%) than for non-victims (2%).
There were 8,766 personal injury cases initiated in 2015-16, 5% fewer than in 2014-15 (Table 13). The number of personal injury cases has fluctuated markedly since 2008-09. The type of court where personal injury cases can be raised has recently changed under the Courts Reform Act, particularly with the establishment of the specialised Sheriff Personal Injury Court. See the Courts Reform section for more detail. Compared to 2014-15, the number of personal injury cases initiated decreased in the Court of Session (by approximately 900 cases, or 30%) ( Table 14, Civil Justice Statistics in Scotland 2014-15 Table 14) and under ordinary cause in the sheriff courts (by approximately 600 cases, or 19%) ( Table 15, Civil Justice Statistics in Scotland 2014-15 Table 15). The number of cases initiated under summary cause in the sheriff courts stayed approximately the same, while 1,143 cases were initiated for the first time in the new Sheriff Personal Injury Court ( Table 1).
As in every year since 2008-09, cases resulting from a road traffic accident made up the greatest proportion of personal injury cases, accounting for 56% of them in 2015-16. There was a decrease of 5% of these personal injury cases from 2014-15 to 2015-16 ( Table 13). The fluctuation in road traffic accident related cases over time ( Figure 11) contrasts to the downward trend in the number of reported road traffic accident casualties  .
Figure 11: Personal injury cases by case types
After reaching a peak of 629 cases in 2014-15, the number of clinical negligence cases decreased to 388 cases in 2015-16 (-38%). This remains higher than the approximately 200 cases a year raised from 2008-09 to 2013-14. In the Court of Session, where 72% of clinical negligence cases were raised, the decrease was 49% (from 545 cases in 2014-15 to 280 cases in 2015-16) ( Table 14, Civil Justice Statistics in Scotland 2014-15 Table 14). The 2014-15 peak in clinical negligence cases is thought to be related to the influx of compensation claims associated with mesh implants and breast implants.
In 2015-16 there was also a 34% fall in the number of asbestos cases initiated compared to the previous year, to 300 cases. This is around half of the number of cases initiated in 2009-10 (541 cases). The peak in 2009-10 can be explained in part by the introduction of the Damages (Asbestos-related Conditions) (Scotland) Act 2009, which came into force in June 2009 and allows individuals with asbestos-related pleural plaques etc. to raise a court case for personal injury.
Many asbestos cases were sisted (suspended) pending the UK Supreme Court's decision as regards a judicial review of the Damages (Asbestos-related Conditions) (Scotland) Act 2009. Following the decision of the UK Supreme Court dated 12 October 2011 in the case Axa General Insurance Ltd & Others v The Lord Advocate, direction no. 2 of 2012 was made by the Lord President on 27 August 2012 outlining the procedures to be followed in the relevant cases, and disposals have since progressed accordingly.
Across all categories of personal injury cases in the Court of Session, absolvitor was the most common disposal, accounting for two-thirds of all cases disposed of ( Table 14). Absolvitor means that the pursuer is prevented from bringing the same matter to court again, in some of these cases the parties involved would have come to an out-of-court settlement.
In 2015-16, personal injury actions were raised in court in the following proportions (Tables 13 to 17): Court of Session (24%), sheriff court ordinary cause procedure (30%), sheriff court summary cause procedure (33%) and Sheriff Personal Injury Court (13%).
Accident at work and road traffic accident cases made up the majority of cases raised in the new Sheriff Personal Injury Court (461 and 313 cases respectively, out of a total of 1,143 cases) ( Table 17). This is in comparison to 172 cases disposed of over the same period, with accident at work and road traffic accidents again making up the largest proportion of disposals.
Email: Jeremy Darot