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  Uniform quantum of payment


KUALA LUMPUR: The days of inconsistent awards handed down for injuries sustained in accidents are over.
Since January, a compendium of personal injury awards has been in place in the magistrate`s and Sessions courts to serve as a guideline.
Both claimants and defendants now have greater confidence that damages awarded for losing three or four fingers will range from RM20,000 to RM30,000 and for complete impotency in a male or loss of both ovaries in a female between RM60,000 and RM80,000.
Several lawyers said that, prior to this, there was no uniformity in awards for similar injury claims in courts in the various states and much time was wasted arguing over the quantum.
In 2007, the Kuala Lumpur Bar tabulated a compendium of minimum and maximum awards for personal injury claims, which was then reviewed by a Bar Council task force in 2009
On Oct 11 last year, Chief Judge Tan Sri Arifin Zakaria informed the council the judiciary had studied the quantum in the revised compendium and was agreeable with it.
Lawyer Ravin Singh, who acts largely for the defendant/insurance company, said the compendium had made it easier to advise clients.
"It has certainly made awards a little more uniform."
While he wasn`t sure whether it has helped in expediting cases, he said "it has definitely been useful in suggesting the quantum when judges insist we make on-the-spot oral submissions".
Melvin Selvam Thambirajah, who only acts for the defence, agreed the compendium had reduced the discrepancies between awards.
Asked whether the system was more efficient now, he replied: "Definitely. I can`t deny that the Chief Justice`s proactive actions have shown results."
Melvin, who said the compendium was proving useful in pre-trial mediation, disagreed with some lawyers` view that certain judges "dictate" quantum during mediation.
"The guide helps ensure the judge's view is not too far off."
On whether the guideline could make mediation the way to go in running down cases, Melvin pointed out that the compendium only covered personal injury claims.
"For calculating loss of future earnings, nursing care and prosthetic limbs, we would still need to argue case law before the judge."
A lawyer who always acts for claimants agreed that while a case of simple injury could be settled, one involving medical care would still need to be argued in court.
"Even so, some 80% of my cases are settled on the date of the hearing. Insurance companies don't take pre-trial mediation seriously because they like to wait until the last possible moment to pay the claimant," said the lawyer who asked not to be named.
"Having said that, they have improved a lot and cases are moving a lot faster."
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