Keeping up with inflation: new 2024 guidelines for injury awards in claims in NI

  • Legal Development 16 April 2024 16 April 2024
  • UK & Europe

  • Casualty claims

Monday 8 April 2024 was a notable day for all involved in personal injury cases in Northern Ireland: the 6th edition of the Judicial Studies Board Guidelines for the Assessment of General Damages in Personal Injury Cases in Northern Ireland - the “Green Book” - was published.

With the previous edition released in 2019, the updated Green Book has been long awaited and much anticipated by practitioners given its assistance when determining damages. That said, the introduction reminds us that these are purely guidelines, and are not a rigid framework to be applied mechanistically.

As with previous editions, the new figures reflect changes in the Retail Prices Index (RPI) of inflation since the 5th edition was published in 2019. The RPI has increased by a shade over 25% in this five year period (source data for the RPI is provided by the Office for National Statistics). The introduction to the new Green Book highlights the uncertainty of future inflation and therefore does not, unlike the previous edition, attempt to make a forward projection for future inflation – suggesting that that aspect of the last edition was something of a ‘one-off’. 

Whilst in general the changes in the guidelines closely reflect the change in RPI noted above, there are some categories of injury where significantly larger (or smaller) increases have been made.

Neck and back injuries

Minor neck injuries are an area that has seen a significant increase across the board with the highest bracket, 1-2 year recovery increasing up to £17,500 (+40%). Symptoms lasting six months to one year can attract up to £7,500 (+50%) and the lowest bracket increasing from £3,000 to £5,000 (+67%) for recovery within six months. For both minor neck injuries and minor back injuries, the wording referring to recovery made “within a period of a few days, a few weeks or a few months” has also been removed. Back injuries have not seen as significant an increase with the more conventional 25% increase being applied. Perhaps however this reflects the awards that have been made in recent years and therefore in effect will not result in significant changes to compensation. 


“Allegations of whiplash are easily made and not easily disproved.” Importantly for defendants the 6th edition reiterates its previous position as regards the potential for fraud and restates that “medical experts are reliant on the honesty of plaintiffs.” At Chapter 7A, the position remains that “the assessment of damages for whiplash injuries requires particular care”.

The wording calls for scrutiny in cases “where exaggerated claims may call into question the very existence of an injury”. The court is asked to make its findings of fact on the issues of whether an injury was sustained and the “nature and extent of same”. Further, the court is reminded against making a nominal award in these types of cases.

Hand Injuries

The standard 25% increase has been applied mostly to the section covering hand injuries. The section in relation to fingers and thumbs has been appropriately condensed with a separate bracket to distinguish for index fingers and thumb only. The previous bracket covering “fracture of index finger” has been removed and replaced with “serious fracture or injury to index finger or other finger” and has increased significantly from up to £17,000 to up to £40,000 (+135%). The previous bracket for minor thumb injuries, now includes finger and this has been reduced from up to £12,000 to £10,000 (-17%). Helpfully the wording also confirms this will include “fractures which generally have recovered within six months. Also injuries such as scarring, tenderness, and reaction to the cold where there is a full recovery.” The aim is noted as providing useful categorisation which is inclusive to ensure guidelines are inclusive to ensure full compensation can be achieved for all injuries.

Facial disfigurement and removal of gender distinction

Most notably, and in line with principles of equality, differences in the level of damages based on gender has been removed from this section. The text clearly states that “Any distinction based on gender should not be regarded as of particular significance” and refers to the factors to be considered including the age and psychological impact upon the plaintiff. The description of the injuries is the same (although previously it related only to females). The increases here are close to the standard 25% figure.

The removal of gender distinction has also been applied to injuries to the reproductive system, with the introduction being very clear on this: “In Chapters 6D and 8B (Reproductive System and Facial Disfigurement respectively) we have removed the distinction in the level of damages based on gender as the injuries described are equally applicable to both male and female.”

Injuries resulting in death

For cases resulting in fatality, where there was previously only a guideline for cases where a plaintiff had not suffered immediately following injury, there is now a guide figure of up to £100,000 where the deceased has suffered pain over a number of months coupled with medical treatment. There has been a change in the figure of up to £15,000 where there has been no suffering (+25%). We consider that this likely reflects the practice being adopted in respect of fatality cases by judges and practitioners in recent years. 

Psychiatric Damage

Perhaps unsurprisingly there have been amendments to the area of psychiatric damage.

Wording has been added specific to injuries arising from sexual abuse, with the text now referring to considerations which will assist in assessing damages such as the circumstances, age and the nature and extent of any abuse of trust.

Psychiatric damage generally has been split across four brackets ranging from severe down to minor. The main change is that the minor bracket now specifically includes adjustment disorders, with clarity provided in relation to the diagnosis of this injury.


There have been a small number of new injury classifications notably in the deafness/tinnitus sections.

For example, tinnitus is now recognised as being a standalone injury which is explained in the introduction, and it is noted that where there is a “doubling up” of deafness and tinnitus appropriate allowances should be made. It strikes us that this is perhaps a nod to the case of Wilson v Gilroy & MIB [2008] NICA 23 which stipulates: 

“In cases involving a multiplicity of injuries each of which calls for individual evaluation it is well established that one should check the correctness of the aggregate sum (which is produced when one adds together the amounts for all of them) by considering the figure on a global or general basis.”

In comparison with significant increases in hearing loss damages, Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) has experienced increases around 25% however the general damages award should include the additional consideration of the “effect on domestic and social life” offsetting any potential loss of amenity awards perhaps. Practitioners will have to guard against any double compensation in relation to this.


The obvious takeaway point is that the new guidelines will provide more clarity and consistency in compensation for awards for personal injury cases in Northern Ireland. We anticipate this will assist parties and their legal advisers in resolving claims more quickly and fairly.

Overall, we do not expect further significant increases in compensation awards - save in claims where the new guideline figures exceed the standard 25% increase - given that the new Green Book focuses, as previous editions have done, on the effect of prices inflation over time and given that more recent awards have been in line with that trend in any event.

For more information contact Cormac Fitzpatrick


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