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Wednesday, 7 February, 2001, 10:03 GMT
How much is your injury worth?
Francesca Quintyne
Francesca Quintyne: 23,000
Former nursery nurse Lisa Potts has been awarded just 49,000 in compensation for the machete attack which ended her career. So how are such sums calculated?

In 1996 Lisa Potts won the hearts of the nation when she defended her class of Wolverhampton nursery schoolchildren from a machete-wielding attacker.

Miss Potts' hand was almost severed and her arms and back were badly cut as she shielded her 18 charges.

As well as her physical scars, Miss Potts has also suffered depression and post-traumatic stress disorder - forcing her to give up her career.

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) has calculated the George Medal winner should receive 49,000 compensation for her injuries and loss of earnings.

Miss Potts' lawyers have called the award "disappointing" - especially given the huge damages settlements often decided in the libel courts.

Lisa Potts
Lisa Potts: 49,000
The parents of Francesca Quintyne, one of three children injured in the attack, appealed against her 7,950 award.

Francesca, now eight, was recently promised 23,000 for the injuries and mental trauma resulting from the attack - still 50,000 less than her family had asked for.

The two other children hurt on the nursery attack received 6,000 and 6,250.

Since it was set up in 1964, the government-run compensation scheme has always been controversial, with an agreed formula to equate physical and psychological harm with a cash sum proving difficult to achieve.

There was outrage when it emerged Josie Russell, who was bludgeoned in an attack which killed her mother and sister, received the minimum award for her injuries - 18,500. This was later increased to 79,000.

Since 1996, awards have been made under a rigid tariff system and range from 1,000 to 250,000 for injuries or mental trauma.

Victims are also eligible for further "special care costs" up to 250,000. These are discretionary and account for loss of earnings and medical costs which are a result of the injury.

The price of pain
Chipped tooth: 1,000
Fractured big toe: 2,500
Loss of testicle: 5,000
Severe upper limb burns: 10,000
Total deafness, both ears: 40,000
Loss of both legs: 100,000

The tariff sets out about 330 descriptions of injury and matches these to a "standard" sum. For example, a fractured rib is 1,000; a severe burns to the torso would net 10,000 and injuries which caused loss of fertility 50,000.

Despite the delay in settling the Potts case, CICA says the "flat fee" system has speeded up the claims process.

However, its inflexibility and upper limit means awards can never match those paid out in negligence cases, such as medical negligence, where there is no ceiling.

Last year a man was awarded 93,000 for a botched liposuction operation which it was said ruined his prospects of continuing a modelling career.

"I would have made a success as a model and would have been rich," he told the court.

Josie Russell
Josie Russell: 79,000
The CICA receives in the region of 80,000 applications per year, yet many will not be honoured because the injury falls below the minimum threshold. A black eye, for example, would not warrant a pay out.

There must be at least three such minor injuries - bruising, cuts, bloody nose - to qualify for compensation.

The victim's culpability is also taken into account. Someone who suffered a broken wrist after starting a fight would probably not be rewarded.

The low profile of the authority is one of its most controversial aspects. Many attack victims miss out on payments because they don't know the scheme exists.

A spokesman for the authority says police and victim support are expected to pass on the word.

But the spokesman also admitted that only a quarter of those eligible to claim actually do. Howard Webber, who is in charge of the scheme, has pledged to raise its profile.

'Astonished'

One claimant, who needed eight stitches above his left eye after being punched on a London Tube train, told BBC News Online he had to seek it out himself.

The price of pain
Blurred vision (6-13 weeks): 1,000
Loss of smell or taste: 10,000
Loss of tongue: 40,000
Loss of sight: 75,000
Paralysis of all limbs: 250,000
Colin, who asked not to be fully identified, eventually received 1,500, but was told nothing by the police or Victim Support about the scheme.

"I got a letter from Victim Support which didn't mention it. Maybe they would have if I'd taken up counselling but how many people do that?

"Making the claim is actually quite straightforward - like an insurance claim."

"I was astonished when I saw the amount. I thought I'd maybe get a couple of hundred pounds."

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