Ruaidhrí Austin: Northern Ireland’s new Green Book makes long-awaited increases

Ruaidhrí Austin: Northern Ireland's new Green Book makes long-awaited increases

Ruaidhrí Austin

Lacey Solicitors partner Ruaidhrí Austin examines the first update in five years to the ‘Green Book’ governing personal injury awards in Northern Ireland.

The Judicial Studies Board for Northern Ireland has published the sixth edition of the Guidelines for the Assessment of General Damages in Personal Injury Cases — colloquially known as the ‘Green Book’ — replacing the previous edition that was released five years ago in 2019.


Since the publication of the first edition in 1996, the guidelines have proven indispensable to the judiciary and practitioners in the assessment of personal injuries in this jurisdiction.

This latest edition of the guidelines provides a long-expected increase in the suggested values for most injuries and takes into account the inflationary climate today and the significant rise in inflation.

Some notable changes have been set out below.

Psychiatric damage

Previous editions had sections for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and psychiatric damage, outlining that the level of the award takes into account the length of the period of disability and the extent to which daily activities and sleep are affected.

Previous editions, however, have never made reference specifically to adjustment disorders.

The sixth edition confirms that the ‘minor psychiatric damage’ category includes adjustment disorders allowing:

  • Up to £10,000.00 where a virtually full recovery is made within 12 months and;
  • Up to £20,000.00 where a virtually full recovery is made within 12-24 months.

The post-traumatic stress disorder section also sees a notable change with suggested figures for awards involving severe PTSD more than doubling from £60,000.00–£120,000.00 in the previous edition to £100,000.00–£250,000.00 in the new edition.

Deafness and tinnitus

The entire structure for the category of this injury has been altered from previous editions.

Justification is given within the introduction of the new edition for this alteration which quite simply is that the categories of ‘deafness’ and ‘tinnitus’ can be mutually exclusive.

Often practitioners would be presented with plaintiffs suffering from tinnitus without deafness, or deafness with no element of tinnitus. This change takes those individuals into account but acknowledges that where there is a ‘doubling up’ of the injuries, “appropriate allowances should be made”.

Removal of distinction in the level of damages based on gender

Injuries involving damage to the reproductive system and injuries involving facial disfigurement have, in previous editions, been valued separately based on gender.

This edition takes into account that the injuries described are equally applicable to both male and female.

No distinction on the level of damages for the same injury is made in this edition on the basis of gender.

Minor neck injuries

The new edition has increased the value of awards for minor neck injuries by some 40–66 per cent depending on the category.

It has also given clarification relating to timeframes for the recovery of minor neck injuries by altering the wording of the guidelines.

Previous editions unhelpfully attempted to categorise the two more modest minor neck injuries as those where a full recovery takes place within “a few days, a few weeks or a few months” and “several months to a year”, which led to ambiguity and disagreement between defence and plaintiff practitioners.

The new edition clarifies the issue by altering the wording to “within six months” and “a period of six to 12 months” respectively.

Minor back injuries

Minor back injuries have seen an increase, though not as great — a 25 per cent increase in award for all minor back injuries.

Minor soft tissue injuries to the neck and back have seen increases from 40–66 per cent.

Again, some clarification is given to the wording and this edition again removes the unhelpful “a few days, few weeks or a few months” and “several months and two years”, replacing the wording as, in minor neck injuries, with “within six months” and “a period of six to 12 months” respectively.

Hand injuries

“Moderate hand injuries” has historically been a broad category, encompassing a wide range of injuries and understandably a wide range of suggested values.

The suggested range is now £22,500.00–£90,000.00, up from £18,000.00–£72,500.00 in the previous edition.

In this edition, however, an example of an injury that should attract the top range of award has been added to the moderate hand injury category which will assist practitioners in securing the appropriate level of compensation.

Another change to note is the change in the categories of injuries to the fingers.

In previous editions, the individual fingers were categorised separately, i.e. “index finger… middle finger… ring and little finger”. In this edition however, specific injuries to specific fingers are now encompassed within slightly broader categories.

Damage to teeth

A new category has been added to this section which interestingly now allows for the highest award of compensation in the “damage to teeth” section.

“Significant, chronic tooth pain (such as from an untreated abscess) extending over a number of years together with significant general deterioration in the overall condition of the teeth. May include some bone loss and need for ongoing periodontal treatments. — £15,000.00–£125,000.00”

In previous editions, the highest suggested figure was £15,000.00–£45,000.00 for the loss of or serious damage to several front teeth. It is now £20,000.00–£50,000.00.

This new edition will be published by the Judicial Studies Board, accessed through the Judiciary NI website.

  • Ruaidhrí Austin is a partner at all-island insurance law firm Lacey Solicitors.
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