I worked as a logistics driver for the local council until I had a motorcycle accident which left me with permanent damage in my back, meaning I couldn’t load and unload vehicles.

Luckily the council found me another driving job which did not involve loading, which I am happy to do.

I brought a claim with local solicitors who seem to have to ask a barrister before they do anything.

Originally my claim for lost earnings was about 40% of my total earnings until I retired, nine years post accident. Now they are telling me to take not £85,000-odd but the equivalent to a year’s income of about £25,000.

I don’t want to be greedy but I don’t understand how my loss of earnings has gone down from £85,000 to £25,000 but the reality is I haven’t actually lost any money at all.

I’ve asked them for an explanation, but they don’t seem able to give me one. Can you?


I can. Looking at the correspondence, this seems to be one of the first personal injury claims this solicitor has ever done.

You are right that he has been relying on a barrister throughout. I think you dodged a bullet, in that your solicitors might be a bit inept but they picked a competent barrister!

The barrister’s explanation is aimed at a solicitor who is familiar with personal injury law, whereas your solicitor does not appear to have a clue.

The barrister’s advice is correct but you need it translated into English. When the barrister put forward your claim he put it at the maximum the evidence would property support. That is proper.

He said that prior to the accident you were fully able-bodied 54-year-old man but now, at the time of settlement you are a 56-year-old disabled man.

The difference in your earning potential is about 40% (based on statistics which the courts accept as correct but which do not bind the Judge) over the rest of your working life which is how this loss has got to around £85,000.

However, as you correctly observe you have not actually lost any money at all as the council has found another job for you, which you expect to do until retirement.

The barrister has advised – and I agree with his advice – that you would be unlikely to get treated as having lost £85,000 because you still remain working for a sympathetic employer, doing a job you are likely to be able to do until retirement.

The court will however recognise that even though it is expected that you will continue working until retirement, life changes. You could find yourself back on the labour market again.

You may, for example, need to move home to look after elderly parents, the council could privatise your particular job, and if that happened you would have a much longer period of looking for work than a person who could, for example, carry out routine manual tasks.

For a man of your age a court would not take much persuasion that a year’s salary would cover off this risk. This type of award is called a Smith v Manchester award.

The maximum is two years’ salary, but that would be for a younger person. A year’s net income is where I think most Judges would land on the facts of your case, and having read your barrister’s advice, I can find nothing to disagree with him about.

The real problem is your solicitors cannot explain the law to you because I do not think they understand it themselves. I found their explanations almost comical. All they needed to do was Google ‘Smith V Manchester’ and dozens of straightforward explanations from English specialist personal injury lawyers would have clarified this method of assessing loss.

The award recommended is a perfectly proper one. The advice from the barrister is accurate and thoughtful. He is recommending the taking of an offer which budgets your loss of earnings at £25,000 and his right so to do.

Andrew Dalton

Fast Bikes August 2020