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Assessment of Damages

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When a judge makes a decision in an accident case the injured party would be awarded damages. After the judge makes a decision on the substance of the evidence for a claim, it would be sent to the Master’s court for assessment of damages. If the defendant fails to acknowledge service or fails to provide a defence then there will be a default judgement against the defendant. Default judgements would be forwarded to the Master’s court for assessment of damages.

It is by way of damages that a defendant is compensated for losses. Damages could be treated in two categories namely special damages and general damages. In some cases there might not be evidence of special damages. Special damages could cover a wide array of items where specifically there is destruction of any material or personal items, for example, clothing, or a motor vehicle. Where there is injury, there could be claims for accommodation in a hospital and treatment, medical consultation, loss of earnings, loss of personal effects, medication, medical reports, police report, X-ray, physiotherapy and others as special damages. These items must be pleaded and proved. If the defendant does not dispute the amount for these items then there would be no requirement for discussion on them by the judge in his judgement. Party must have receipts or any other record to substantiate any amount that is claimed as special damages. The absence of receipts could jeopardize the defendant’s case. In the case of future care a report from the applicable medical officer will suffice.

The master will reference similar cases that were decided in a court of law. He can refer to these to do a balancing act and come up with the best result for the case in hand. Both claimant and defendant can provide precedents, to support their argument. The claimant would show how he deserves the claim and the defendant could show why the claimant does not deserve or should have lower amounts as compensation.

If the claimant inflates a claim for a sum of money, it is the judge’s duty to indicate it and to adjust where applicable. The Master’s duty is to apply the most recent case and classical case to support her decision. In the case of Orlando Edwin v Orin Sherwin Choyee and Edwards (SLUHCV 2017/0165) on the assessment of damages the learned Master Actie put forward applicable argument on the issue of the rental of a vehicle.

After the accident, the claimant rented a Terios Jeep and claimed the sum of $30,000 for 10 months. The defendants thought that the claimant should have rented a similar vehicle as the one in the accident. Since he was riding a motorcycle when the accident occurred, he should have rented a motorcycle. The claimant responded that the extent of his injury did not allow him to do so because he was experiencing severe pain in his groin area and hip. The master agreed that a jeep and not a motorcycle was more suitable taking into consideration the extent of injuries sustained.

The defendants argued that the amount claimed for rental was excessive. They cited the dicta of Master Cottle in Hybert Construction Co Ltd. v Henry Bacchus (2004) that “the claimant should not be compensated for an amount which was in excess of the value of the replacement vehicle.” On this issue the master determined the rental of the jeep for 10 months was excessive. The master made an award for $9,000.00 rental of vehicle for a period of three months. The replacement value of motorcycle was $13,500.00.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law. E-mail address is: [email protected]