UCL Faculty of Laws


Humanity in tort: Does personality affect personal injury litigation?

08 February 2018, 6:00 pm–7:00 pm

Personal Injury

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UCL Faculty of Laws


UCL Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre, Wilkins Building, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT

Speaker: Professor Richard Lewis (Cardiff University)
Chair: The Rt. Hon. Lord Justice Lewison (Court of Appeal Judge)
Series: Current Legal Problems 2017-18

About the lecture

This lecture examines whether the character of those involved in personal injury litigation affects the outcome of claims. For example, irrespective of the legal rules, does the personality or background of a claimant or defendant influence whether an action succeeds and how much damages are then paid?

A rise in the number of claims is noted here as part of a contested ‘compensation culture’ in personal injury. In a demographic analysis, the article identifies who now may be seen as typical claimants and what injuries they suffer. Claims have been gathered in increasing numbers by law firms in response to market pressures encouraging them to process minor injury cases in bulk. The firms have changed their structure and created ‘settlement mills’ where there may be little scope for individuals to affect the routine processing of small claims. By contrast, in more serious injury cases, character and personality are more likely to make a difference. These findings are suggested by the author’s wider empirical study of the views of lawyers on the operation of the claims system: practitioners who have been interviewed are given voice here.

The lecture challenges traditional perspectives of tort where it is often implicit that claims are resolved only in court on the basis of textbook rules on liability and damages. There has been a failure to take account of other factors which may influence both the settlement of claims and the few cases that go to trial. In this wider context the lecture forms part of research which reveals that the operation of the tort system in practice differs markedly from that in theory.

About the speaker

Richard Lewis is Professor of Law at Cardiff University. He was educated at West Mon School, Pontypool and Lincoln College, Oxford. After obtaining a first class degree he joined the solicitors firm of Norton Rose in the City of London. He left to take up a position on the Faculty at Northwestern Law School in Chicago and then joined the new law school at Cardiff. Apart from further time spent in North America he has remained home in Wales ever since. Oxford University recently awarded him a Doctorate of Civil Law,one of the two most senior degrees it can confer. Previously he was the first person to receive from Cardiff University its senior degree of Doctor of Laws, the LLD.

Richard has published extensively in the areas of accident compensation, and public and private insurance. He is the author of Structured Settlements: The Law And Practice which deals with the payment of damages by means of a pension instead of the traditional lump sum. His other books include Compensation For Industrial Injury and Deducting Benefits From Damages For Personal Injury which examines the relationships between different compensation schemes. He has also written various insurance and social security law publications. He helped to establish and is an editor of the Journal of Law and Society which has been a major influence on his work.

About Current Legal Problems

The Current Legal Problems annual lecture series was established over sixty years ago. The lectures are public, delivered on a weekly basis and chaired by members of the judiciary.

The Current Legal Problems (CLP) annual volume is published on behalf of UCL Laws by Oxford University Press, and features scholarly articles that offer a critical analysis of important current legal issues.

It covers all areas of legal sponsorship and features a wide range of methodological approaches to law. With its emphasis on contemporary developments, CLP is a major point of reference for legal scholarship.

Find out more about CLP on the Oxford University Press website


Please email the UCL Laws events team at laws-events@ucl.ac.uk