Compensation in abuse cases – are Courts starting to recognise the impact abuse can have on a survivor’s working life?
How is the amount of compensation decided?
No amount of money can ever compensate a survivor of abuse for what has happened but it can represent a recognition of the injustice suffered, help pay for things like future therapy, and compensate for financial losses.
Compensation in personal injury cases are usually split into three types of loss:
- Compensation for pain, suffering and loss of amenity (an amount set by guidelines and court cases);
- Compensation for past financial losses (e.g. therapy costs); and
- Compensation for future financial losses (e.g. loss of earnings or cost of future treatment).
The bravery and courage often shown by survivors means that in some cases a steady career can be maintained, and a claim for loss of earnings might not be obvious on the surface. Survivors may not feel able to talk about what happened to them until later on in life and this may have an adverse impact on their ability to work when they decide to speak out. The psychological impact of the abuse may have also meant that a survivor did not perform or progress as they would have hoped or had the potential to. It is easy to see how a survivor of abuse may suffer financial loss throughout their life. However, for a long time, the Courts often considered it too speculative to award compensation for loss of earnings in the majority of abuse cases.
Are the Courts moving in the right direction?
In a recent case, a survivor of abuse in Scotland was awarded record-breaking compensation in the sum of £1.4m. AB suffered abuse at the hands of Brothers Ryan, Farrell and Kelly between 1980 and 1981 at St Ninian’s School in Fife. The judge, Sherriff Dickson, recognised that the abuse had prevented him from working for 38 years and held that the Defendant should be liable for this. The compensation was broken down to include:
- AB’s difficulty in maintaining a job (£1,008,937);
- Future wage loss (£190,043); and
- Pension loss (£23,100).
We welcome this approach by the Court in Scotland. We have seen the Courts in England & Wales take a similar approach in the case of FZO where our client was awarded the record-breaking sum of £1,112,390.70, the highest ever court award made for a victim of child sexual abuse in the UK at the time. This sum reflected both past and a future loss of earnings as a result of the abuse.
In the recent case of TVZ and others v Manchester City Football Club, although the judge did not find the Club liable for the abuse committed by football coach and scout, Barry Bennell, he went on to assess the claimants’ damages on a hypothetical basis. The judge recognised that the abuse that some of the claimants had suffered had affected their football careers and in some cases, their non-football careers. The judge assessed damages on this basis and found that if the claimants had won their case, they would be entitled to be compensated for their loss of earnings. The judge also recognised that the ongoing effects of the abuse, some 30 years later, meant that some of the claimants still remain at a disadvantage on the labour market.
Most civil cases for compensation in abuse cases settle out of Court. We expect those representing defendants to abuse claims to recognise the impact that childhood abuse can have not only on a survivor’s life but also on their earnings capacity, and we hope that this will be reflected when settlement offers are made.