Is it worth it to appeal a Criminal Injuries Compensation decision?

Thoughts on a recent appeal for compensation decision after an assault at a nightclub.

A recent decision by the District Court of Western Australia [WOODWARD -v- DAVIES [2021] WADC 73] gives some insight into the problems that can be encountered when appealing an award for compensation made by the Western Australian Criminal Injuries Compensation (CIC) scheme. In this blog we explore the benefits and consequences of choosing to appeal an award made in your favour.

Background of the application

On the weekend of 24 April 2016, the applicant LW, was assaulted on Smart Street, Mandurah after visiting a local nightclub.  LW’s friend had made a comment at another angry nightclub patron identified only as ‘Male 1’which resulted in a physical altercation between LW’s friend and ‘Male 1’ and both men being evicted from the nightclub.  There was also a heated discussion with nightclub security which ended with LW’s friend punching ‘Male 1’.

Away from the night club, LW and his friend were approached by ‘Male 1’ and ‘Male 2’.  LW was punched by ‘Male 2’, starting a fight which continued until LW was struck by an unidentified person.  LW’s friend was now being held against a wall by ‘Male 3’ who LW grabbed to stop the assault but he was again struck by someone else. LW and his friend were then bashed by the men, some of whom were later identified and charged.

LW claimed he suffered injuries in the assault including bruising, blood nose, fractured front tooth, PTSD and residual psychiatric symptoms.  He made an application for compensation.

On 4 August 2020 LW was awarded compensation by the CIC assessor in the sum of $28,127.  LW’s solicitors submitted additional medical information. The assessor subsequently amended the award to include the costs of the medical information and awarded $31,263 but did not reassess the compensation amount.

LW appealed this decision saying that the assessment was too low. After hearing the evidence and the argument the Court increased the award to $33,244.

Was it worth the Time, Effort and Cost?

This one is always going to come down to each individual person’s opinion, the legal advice they receive at the time and the terms of any costs agreement they signed if legally represented.  In LW’s case the assault happened in April 2016. The assessment was made in August 2020. The appeal hearing was held in May 2021, and the final appeal judgement handed down in July 2021.  Assault to appeal judgement took over 5 years. The appeal resulted in the compensation award being increased by $1,981.75.

Looking at the case and knowing the outcome, you could be forgiven for thinking that most people would not consider the effort, stress, time and the legal costs involved to be worth it. But that is not a decision that can easily be made unless you know LW’s particular circumstances, and it may well have been in LW’s interests to have run this matter to an appeal hearing.

How do I decide whether to appeal or not?

When tyring to decide whether or not to appeal a CIC assessor’s decision, you should chat to an experienced solicitor.  The final decision to appeal or not will always lie with the you, but your lawyer will be able to review the facts, the assessor’s decision, and weigh up the merits of making an appeal, the chance of you getting an increase in the award vs the costs that are involved and the delay in you getting your money.

Always have a good conversation with your solicitor about the various appeal outcomes and your rights and costs obligations in each situation.  It may be the case that getting awarded a few thousand dollars more leaves you with less in the end if your legal costs for the appeal exceed the increased amount awarded.

Can Lian Hall can help you?

If you decide to appeal your CIC award and are happy with your current representation then you are best placed if you stick with your current solicitors, they know your claim best after all.   If you are not represented then we are happy to chat to you about your case. Get in touch today to discuss your claim with us, or to get more information on our no win no fee options.