The Office for National Statistics (ONS) published its Health State Life Expectancies by National Deprivation Deciles, England: 2018 to 2020 on 25th April 2022.
This is the first update since the 2017 to 2019 figures, including partial Covid-19 data for 2020. However, it does not show the full impact of Covid-19 deaths on inequalities.
As with the ONS 2020-based Interim National Populations Projections published earlier in the year, a reduction in projected life expectancies was expected. However, the latest figures highlight a growing inequality in life expectancy between ‘‘rich’’ and ‘‘poor’’, with both females and males living in the most deprived areas of England seeing a significant decrease in life expectancy compared to those in less deprived areas.
Females living in the most deprived areas were living 7.9 years fewer than females living in the least deprived areas. Whilst males living in the most deprived areas were living 9.7 years fewer than males living in the least deprived areas.
The growing inequality in life expectancy between “rich” and “poor” brings into question the validity of the current multipliers contained within the 8th Edition of the Ogden Tables. For those unfamiliar with the tables, they are utilised to assist with calculation of the lump sum compensation due in personal injury and fatal accident claims. The tables provide multipliers that are applied to the here and now value of a future annual loss or expense to take into account accelerated receipt and mortality risks.
The latest edition of the Ogden Tables does not provide a socio-economic inequalities breakdown between ‘‘rich’’ and ‘‘poor’’. The breakdown is by gender only thereby resulting in potentially overinflated multipliers and overly “generous” awards of compensation for claimants from deprived areas.
Given the above, it is evident the multipliers contained within the 8th Edition of the Ogden Tables are now based upon “too generous” projections of life expectancies for claimants from deprived areas, resulting in the potential for certain claimants who have suffered lifetime losses being overcompensated. Accordingly, it should therefore be theoretically open to personal injury practitioners and insurers to argue the Courts should depart from the standard Ogden Table multipliers and adopt reduced multipliers for claimants from deprived areas.
However, it is unlikely that the Courts will have any appetite for such arguments. Any such attempts to deviate from the norm will require specific expert evidence to justify changes to the life expectancy, something the Courts have been very reluctant to allow previously.
Judges may be unwilling to depart from the standard approach as to do so could encourage litigators to attempt to abandon the Tables completely, resulting in complex time-consuming litigation around multipliers and life expectancy in every case - something the Courts are unlikely to encourage!
Even if the Courts were amenable to such arguments, they cut both ways and allowing bespoke life expectancy evidence risks “opening the floodgates” to claimants arguing to the contrary with an above-average life expectancy for claimants from less deprived areas, thereby resulting in an elevation of the multipliers and overall damages paid.
Realistically, any adjustment to the Ogden Tables is likely to follow from the next Discount Rate Review, which according to the timetable set out in the Civil Liability Act 2018, is expected in 2024. The Ogden Working Group may use this as an opportunity to adopt a revised approach to the tables to include additional tables for “rich” and “poor”. It is possible such an approach will gain traction given that the current cost of living crisis will further amplify socioeconomic inequalities, increasing the impact upon life expectancy.
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